Rafters along the popular Middle Fork of the Salmon River in central Idaho are being told to be prepared to share reserved camping spaces with other rafters or even firefighters because of a nearby wildfire.
U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mike McMillan says the lightning-caused Papoose Fire 40 miles west of Salmon through Sunday has burned about four square miles in rugged terrain above the river.
He says it's so rugged ground fire crews for safety reasons haven't been used so far. He says a sky crane helicopter that can drop 2,000 gallons is working on the fire.
McMillan says the fire is burning through grass, brush and some timber on the steep slopes. He says old wildfires from previous years could help firefighters stop it from spreading.
Peter Grubb owns ROW Adventures, a whitewater rafting company based in Coeur d’Alene. Grubb says the Forest Service sent him an alert about the Papoose Fire since his staff is leading a rafting trip there this week. If the fire comes down the banks and endangers camping sites, his staff may have to adapt. But Grubb says that after 25 years of rafting on the Middle Fork, he’s not too concerned about the fire at this point.
“There certainly have been years when our business has been impacted by forest fire," he says. "Typically that happens later in the summer. Right now, I’m not very concerned; this is just one fire and it’s fairly isolated. When it gets problematic is when there’s a lot of fires and there’s a lot of smoke in the air.”
He says that so far, the Papoose Fire is growing slowly and hasn’t posed any real danger to his staff and clients. But if conditions change, the business owner's confident his guides and the Forest Service can work together to deal with evacuations.
Grubb says that running a rafting company in Idaho means you have to be ready to deal with what nature gives you – whether it’s forest fires or high water.