SALMON, Idaho — Editor's note: The video above this article was published Aug. 9.
The Moose Fire northwest of Salmon, currently Idaho's largest wildfire, reached an estimated size of 86,102 acres -- nearly 135 square miles, an area larger than the city limits of Boise and Meridian combined. Containment has increased to 34% and public use is returning to the Salmon River corridor.
Most of the Moose Fire activity, as of Thursday, August 18, is occurring in the area between Pine Creek, Beaver Creek, Panther Creek Road, the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 2 reported Thursday. Also, a "finger" of fire has been moving southwest from the FS 300 Road. Firefighters are strengthening a line there to keep the fire from moving south and east.
The Morgan Bar Campground has reopened, the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday. The Baldy Mountain Road (FS 026) is reopening Thursday for firewood cutting from Perreau Creek Road to the junction of Ridge Road. The Ridge Road, however, remains closed to travel.
A portion of Salmon River Road from Spring Creek to Panther Creek remains closed until further notice because the fire continues to destabilize steep slopes, causing large boulders, trees and other debris to fall onto the road. Vehicles are allowed to travel unescorted elsewhere on the Salmon River Road. Closure and alternate route information is posted in this modified closure order issued Wednesday, August 17.
The Lemhi County Sheriff's Office posts updates on evacuation status.
The main Salmon River is open to rafters and the Spring Creek Boat Launch is open to public use. Questions on river launches can be answered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For river access updates, call 208-756-5587.
The Idaho DEQ has issued an air quality advisory with restrictions on outdoor burning for Lemhi County due to particulate matter in wildfire smoke. The forecast is Orange, or unhealthy for sensitive groups, Thursday, August 18, and Friday, August 19, and Yellow, or moderate, for Saturday, August 20. There are no burning restrictions listed for Saturday.
Investigators have determined the Moose Fire was human-caused, but the specific circumstances as to how it started remain under investigation.
782 firefighters are fighting the Moose Fire, which is burning grass, brush and timber -- much of it dead and downed fuel. It started near the confluence of Moose Creek and the Salmon River.
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A helicopter accident that occurred the afternoon of July 20 on the Moose Fire is under investigation. Both pilots on board were killed, the Lemhi County County Sheriff's Office confirmed Friday. They were identified as Thomas Hayes, 41, of Post Falls, Idaho, and Jared Bird, 36, of Anchorage, Alaska.
The sheriff's office said they died after being extricated and taken to medical facilities. An online fundraiser in Hayes's honor has been created to help his father pay for a funeral and to make a donation to the Boise-based Wildland Firefighter Foundation in his memory. An online fundraiser for Bird's family is also underway. GoFundMe has verified both fundraisers.
The Central Dispatch Zone, which includes the Salmon-Challis National Forest, has elevated the fire danger level to "Extreme" for the region. Also Stage 1 fire restrictions are in effect for the area as of Tuesday, July 26.
Stage 1 Fire Restrictions
The following acts are prohibited on state and federally managed or protected lands, roads, and trails:
- Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire or stove fire except within a designated recreation site and in a permanent concrete or metal fire ring, or on private land, and only within an owner-provided structure.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, building, or designated recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
The following are exemptions to the Stage 1 Fire Restrictions:
- Persons with a written permit that specifically authorizes the otherwise prohibited act.
- Persons using fire fueled solely by liquid petroleum or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) fuels. Such devices, including propane campfires, may be used only in an area cleared of flammable material.
- Persons conducting activities in those designated areas where the activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice.
- Any federal, state, or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.
- All land within a city boundary is exempted.
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