The nation’s largest and top priority wildfire, the Murphy Complex Fire in Southern Idaho, has spread over another 25,000 acres of rangeland for a total of 649,131 acres — more than 1,000 square miles. Thursday the fire was 37 percent contained, up from 30 percent Wednesday.
Eleven active wildfires are burning nearly 1,500 square miles in Idaho altogether. Visit the National Interagency Fire Center for the statistics of each.
Rain slowed the Murphy Complex Fire a bit on Wednesday, the fire camp reported Thursday. The blaze is expected to continue its spread to the south toward Charleston Reservoir and southeast toward the Jarbidge Wilderness area. No forward spread is expected to the northern portions of the fire, the report stated.
An Idaho lawmaker is blaming the enormous fire on federal grazing restrictions, according to Twin Falls’ Times-News. Rep. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, who lost a cow to the blaze, says that fewer grasses lead to less burnable material and a lower chance that fires as large as the Murphy Complex will strike.
In response, Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, was quoted as saying, “There is no scientific evidence that cattle or sheep grazing prevents fires at any time.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Senator Larry Craig of Idaho used the Murphy Complex Fire to make a case for logging and more active forest management — even though the Murphy Complex is burning rangeland, primarily brush, grass, and a mix of juniper. Craig said:
What is happening in Idaho and across the West at this moment, when you see the valleys full of smoke and the mountains full of smoke and the skies with dark bands of carbon-filled air across the West, our natural resources are literally going up in smoke. What is burning out there are trees. It is also watersheds and water quality and wildlife habitat. All of that is disappearing in a ball of fire, and it should not be that way…
What is the solution? More active management? Yes. More active management on our public lands will help the fire situation because active management…means you are in there thinning, you are in there cleaning the underbrush, you are doing the kind of things that fire would have done naturally 100 years ago.
Click here to read Craig’s entire statement from the Senate floor.
The Poe Cabin Fire, which ignited in Oregon but is now primarily in Idaho, about six miles southwest of White Bird, made a 5,000-acre run Wednesday, mostly to the south toward the Hells Canyon Wilderness, and is now mapped at 43,500 acres. It is burning in timber. The fire was 25 percent contained Thursday
Residents of about 40 seasonal homes 37 miles northwest of Helena were issued an evacuation order after the Meriwether Fire surged Wednesday night and burned within 1 1/2 miles of the properties, the AP reports. The fire was 2,200 acres in size Thursday morning, zero percent contained.
Meanwhile, the Ahorn Fire has been relatively subdued since advancing eastward 1,000 acres Tuesday, the fire camp reported Thursday morning, and there has been no significant change in acreage.
The blaze, Montana’s largest, has consumed 15,000 acres in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Lewis and Clark National Forest.
“Yesterday was pretty quite day on the fire,” fire information officer Warren Bielenberg said. “They’re battering down the hatches and hoping for the best.”
Crews, taking advantage of calmer weather, laid 10,000 gallons of retardant on the north and east sides of the fire, hoping that will stall the blaze as temperatures are predicted to warm again over the weekend.
In the area north of Kenck’s Cabin crews are directly attacking the fire to prevent it from running south into the Benchmark area, where a number of structures including summer lease cabins stand.
Click here for more on all of the fires currently burning in Montana.
In Utah the Salt Creek Fire five miles west of Nephi added a couple thousand acres Wednesday for a total of 23,644. It 35 percent contained Thursday, up from 25 percent Wednesday. It’s burning cheat grass and sage brush in lower elevations, pinion-juniper and mountain brush at intermediate elevations, and mixed conifer, fir, and aspen in higher elevations. Recent rains have minimized fire behavior. Structures remain threatened.
Click here for words and pictures from the Salt Creek’s fire line.
Utah’s other active fires are now all at least 80 percent contained. Check in with NIFC for more information.
The Battle Creek Complex Fire, burning about 28 miles northeast of Enterprise in timber and grass, has covered another 1,000 acres since Wednesday for a total of 51,392. It was 30 percent contained. The fire continues to head north along the walls of Hells Canyon. Historic structures, residences and power lines remain threatened.
Oregon’s four other active fires are now all at least 55 percent contained. The largest and least contained is the Monument Complex Fire five miles north of Monument, which blackened another 4,000 acres for a total of 54,000. But, as the fire camp reports, no fire spread is expected outside of established containment lines.
Check NIFC for a full rundown of Oregon’s wildfires.
The Owl Fire, burning along the Wyoming-Montana border in Yellowstone National Park, about 45 miles south of Bozeman, has grown to 2,500 acres, double its size Wednesday. All visitor services, park entrances and roads are open. Some trails and backcountry campsites near the Owl Fire are temporarily closed.
Meanwhile, it’s been quiet on the Granite Creek Fire, burning in the Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Gros Ventre Wilderness about 15 miles southeast of Jackson. It’s burned through about 1,070 acres.