More Idaho families ordered to evacuate as Pine wildfire burns

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by Jamie Grey

KREM.com

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 6:33 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 14 at 9:23 AM

PINE, Idaho -- A mandatory evacuation remains in effect for the communities of Pine and Featherville as the Elk Complex Fire continues to burn.

One upside: the fire didn't grow as predicted overnight, according to fire information officer David Eaker.

The Elk Fire Complex has now burned approximately 111,977 acres of timber, brush, and grass. The fire started on August 8th after several smaller lightning-caused fires burned together.

Bad news came for residents of the area on Tuesday.

That's when Elmore County Sheriff's deputies reported approximately 53 structures had burned near the Fall Creek area on the western shore of Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Othe reports suggest 71 structures have burned in total, but those numbers haven't been finalized.

Firefighters and members of law enforcement say they had to cut through downed trees, power poles, and other debris to gain access the area.

Brenda Sears owns a cabin near Fall Creek Road built by her grandfather over 60 years ago. She tells KTVB that burn notications have been slow, and she's still not able to tell whether her cabin has been destroyed.

Firefighters are expected to remain in and around the communities of Pine and Featherville to guard homes throughout Wednesday. More than 600 personnel are working to fight the flames. Numerous attack helicopters and air tankers are also dropping water and fire retardant to help stop the fire from spreading.

Firefighters are expected to continue laying hose line, trimming vegetation, wetting roofs, and burning out small buffer zones between homes and trees to prevent the fire from spreading.

The fire has now burned westward to the edge of the South Fork of the Boise River, which is preventing it from joining with the smaller, Pony Complex Fire. The combined acreage of both fires is well over 250,000 acres.

UPDATE: 8/13/13 --- Tuesday night

PINE, Idaho --  Elmore County Sheriff"s Office ordered a mandatory evacuation for the Featherville community effective at about 5:30 p.m.Tuesday.

Fire crews were working today to mop up an intentional backburn set last night near the town of Pine.

Wildfires continue to burn between Boise and Hailey, and they continue to creep up on a number of homes, cabins, and other buildings.

We’ve learned that 71 structures have been lost to the flames so far, and fire mangers expect more structures to be lost in the Fall Creek area. It is unknown exactly where the stuctures were located.

The Fall Creek area is in the Elk Complex Fire.

Idaho currently has the top three fires on the national wildfire priority list.

Third on the list is the Beaver Creek Fire, burning west of Hailey and Ketchum.  It’s charred over 32,000 acres and firefighters are working to stop the fire from spreading into nearby communities and recreation areas.

The second is the Pony Complex Fire, west of the town of Prairie. We've been told that officials are letting residents back into the greater Prairie area today.

And the top priority fire in the country is the Elk Complex -- it's currently sitting right between Prairie and the evacuated town of Pine.

Our crew has been at the Elk Complex Fire all day long.

This fire is now nearly 100,000 acres. That's about 8,000 acres bigger than Monday. Overnight, there was a lot of work being done, especially with backburning near subdivisions.

"Oh, you know, you're always hopeful it never reaches you," said Pine resident Butch Glineski.

Butch Glineski and his wife chose not to evacuate, and so last night as the fire crept along the ridge behind their home in the Aspen subdivision, they watched as crews worked on the hillside.

"You could see their headlight, or the light on their cap, and it was a different color than the fire, so you could see that and all of a sudden you'd see fire following them. Maybe wonder how they'd get out of there quick enough," said Glineski.

Crews bulldozed and backburned behind the subdivision.

"It was quite a sight to see. At one point, that whole hillside was just totally, totally engulfed in flames. Just aglow," said Glineski.

The goal of all of these backburns along the road and behind homes is to burn out fuel in between the natural fire and where firefighters have built protective lines, but it's a delicate process with delicate timing issues.

"What we have to do is wait and wait and wait until the exact right time when we see the smoke from the fire coming off the mountain starting to pull upwards. We want it to suck the smoke from the fire we start up into the main fire and then we know that our backfire will work," said Elk Fire spokeswoman Madonna Lengerich.

Which it did Monday night as no homes in the Aspen subdivision were lost, much to the relief of Glineski and his neighbors.

"Oh, a few tears shed in the night. Yeah, I don't think with all the personnel we were worried. I guess the fact it was going and we were ready to leave, but got guys like this fighting it, we didn't have to," Glineski said.

As the fire has moved on from this subdivision it is moving up the road toward more homes where firefighters are planning similar defensive operations to save homes in Pine and potentially Featherville.

At the incident command post, one of the big factors today for planning has been the weather and the top priority remains keeping the fire from crossing the Pine-Featherville Road.

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