Wildland Firefighting Resources In Idaho Stretched Thin

Sep 17, 2020

The Woodhead Fire is the largest of Idaho’s current wildfires. Fire managers told local community members Wednesday night that it’s grown to more than 84,000 acres and is 39% contained.

Regional fire officials credited the initial attack on the fire to local firefighters minimizing potential damage. The fire was one of 25 to spring up in Idaho during the Labor Day wind event, according to Idaho Department of Lands Fire Management Bureau Chief Josh Harvey. Most of those fires were controlled quickly. Windy conditions pushed the Woodhead Fire to more than 26,000 acres in its first two days.

Its perimeter is more than 100 miles long, and one firefighter has been injured, according to fire officials. The fire area includes land owned by the Idaho State Land Endowment. 

Incident commander Tim Roide told community members Wednesday that fire resources are spread extremely thin due to the 30,000 firefighters battling three million acres of wildfires in Washington, Oregon and California. Roide says there are 300 personnel on the Woodhead fire, and 250 ‘operational resources’ — a combined term for crews and equipment he can deploy.

“That’s 400 acres of active fire for each operational resource,” Roide said. “Typically on a normal fire, we would put the number of resources that we have assigned on a 400 acre fire.”

Fire containment is primarily on the west and south sides of the fire, with on-going efforts to prevent the fire from running to the east and impacting the areas of Goodrich and Council.

Officials are concerned about low humidity on Thursday and an approaching cold front, which is expected to bring rain to mountain areas Friday, but could also bring gusty winds across southern Idaho. National Weather Service meteorologist Josh Smith said the storm system is unlikely to bring lightning thanks in part to lingering smoke, and will be on its way by Sunday with temperatures returning to slightly above-normal conditions for this time of year.

Elsewhere, The Badger fire 20 miles southwest of Oakley in south-central Idaho is 28,000 acres and 0% contained. Command of that fire, which began September 12 due to unknown causes, was turned over to regional officials Wednesday. It is growing rapidly due to windy and dry conditions.

The Grouse Fire continues to keep campgrounds and many forest roads closed east of Pine and Featherville. That fire, cause undetermined, remains under 4,000 acres.

The Trap Fire is burning nine miles northwest of Stanley. Fire officials report good opportunity to maintain a perimeter on three sides of the fire but are challenged by wind and terrain. Traffic on highway 21 is allowed between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. with a pilot car escort through a seven-mile stretch near the fire.

Harvey, the Fire Management Bureau Chief for Idaho Department of Lands, said the majority of fires this season have been human caused — though the exact cause of many current fires remains under investigation.

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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