Lodgepole Fire Near Challis Could Burn For Months
Update 10:10 a.m. : The fire has grown to 6,559 acres Friday. Fire managers say they made some progress with fire lines Thursday. The blaze is 5 percent contained. Four more hotshot crews were added to the roster of firefighters.
Of the seven large wildfires burning actively in Idaho right now, one is receiving a lot of manpower to contain the blaze. The Lodgepole fire started last Saturday, and has covered 6,000 acres in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. There are 560 people working on the uncontained fire, either directly or as support.
Although the blaze is 10 miles away from Challis, it’s getting substantial air and ground support. The fire is burning in an area where pine beetles have killed a lot of the timber, so there’s dry and dead wood for the blaze to consume.
The potential for rapid growth coupled with the remote and rocky terrain means this is a difficult fire to manage. Helicopters began dropping water and chemical retardant on the fire on Sunday. Hand crews, including three hotshot crews, are now working to dig a fire line for containment.
Even with all of these firefighting efforts, the Lodgepole fire could be one that we hear about for the rest of the summer. That’s according to fire prevention officer LaDawn Saxton.
“Timber fires usually take a long time to put out," says Saxton. "And in this case, it might possibly burn into the fall and winter, or at least smoke.”
Saxton says the firefighters hope to make some progress on containing the fire this afternoon, but winds could complicate those efforts. She says the best thing would be for rain without lighting, but the forecast is continuing to show dry and hot conditions.
The Lodgepole fire hasn’t caused evacuations, but there are road and hiking trail closures in the forest. And the town of Challis is dealing with smoke from the blaze.
There’s a community meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Challis Middle School to update people on the fire’s status.