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Hundreds of evacuations ahead of Idaho wildfires

Published August 12, 2013 1:35 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

PINE, Idaho - Two fast-growing wildfires have burned more than 310 square miles of land in south-central Idaho and the smaller of the two forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes near Pine, a small mountain town besieged by fires for the second straight summer.

The lightning-caused fires started late last week and have led to the closure of more than 1,200-square-miles of Boise National Forest land. The blazes have also prompted evacuations from the small communities of Prairie and Mayfield.

One of those fires, the Elk Complex Fire, has so far charred more than 125-square-miles and is now the nation's top wildfire priority, according to federal wildfire officials. The second collection of fires, the Pony Complex, is less than 50 miles away and so far has scorched more than 187 square miles and has burned two cabins and an outbuilding.

Fire officials say dozens of livestock are missing and about 20 buildings had been damaged in the Elk Complex blaze, which fueled by winds moved quickly through the region's dry forests.

"It ran 6 miles yesterday," said Madonna Lengerich, a spokeswoman for the Elk Complex. "The plume was just unbelievably huge yesterday."

Last year, the massive Trinity Ridge Fire burned thousands of acres in the same region and forced hundreds of residents and recreationists to evacuate in and around the town of Featherville, just a few miles from Pine.

On Sunday, Elmore County sheriff's deputies went from house to house between Pine and Featherville, knocking on doors to alert residents to begin clearing out of the area.

Firefighters helped residents clear brush around their homes and filled large plastic "pumpkins," or pools, with thousands of gallons of water, then connected hoses from the pumpkins to the sprinkler systems in an effort to protect property. For residents, the fire activity this season seems more imposing than the flames that moved so close to town a year ago.

"This is horrible," said Danielle Stem, who sat with family and friends in the parking lot of the Pine Resort Cafe & Cocktails. "Last year's was slow-moving. This year, it's on us."