Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (2022)

JOSHUA MURDOCK

NORTH FORK, IDAHO– With sweltering temperatures looming this week, relatively calm winds could be critical in preventing the Moose fire about 22 miles south of Lost Trail Pass from exploding in size.

But a forecast of dry lightning Thursday and Friday poses a threat.

The fire approached 40,000 acres and was 10% contained on Tuesday as nearly 900 firefighters worked to cut lines around the blaze and protect buildings ahead of the fire. The fire is burning just west of U.S. Highway 93 between Salmon, Idaho, and Lost Trail Pass on the Montana-Idaho line. The blaze ignited mid-afternoon on July 17 and rapidly grew amid high winds and red-flag conditions last week.

The fire is expanding on three fronts — to the west, south and east — driven by chaotic wind patterns through river canyons, up and down slopes, and over ridge tops. The eastern head of the fire threatens the most structures, along the Highway 93 corridor.

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Jessica Schick, a public information officer on the fire, said that Highway 93 could be closed “if fire behavior in the corridor presents a danger to the public or our firefighters. It's hard to say how likely it is that could happen because we are dealing with a natural phenomenon that can be very unpredictable.” Information on highway closures is available from the Idaho Department of Transportation.

In the Highway corridor, task force leader Christine Droske was directing crews cutting and burning lines around structures and setting up sprinkler systems fed by portable tanks often referred to as pumpkins because of their round, orange appearance. Nearby, in the Salmon River, helicopters dipped buckets into the river to shuttle water up to the fire.

Droske said she and her crews had assessed 130 residences from Tower Creek to North Fork over the past two days, and that “it’s been a lot more than meets the eye.” Crews working to set up sprinkler systems around homes on Tower Creek Road said it takes about 2–3 hours per home, on average, to erect and test a system before they can move to the next residence. Home sites with multiple buildings take longer.

Some homes were already well prepared for fire, with fuels mostly cleared away from buildings. Others had tall, dry fuels immediately around structures and dry firewood piled high adjacent to dwellings. Around all the homes, hand crews cleared brush and dug lines.

“The east side of the highway, with a few exceptions, is really open and easily defensible,” she said.

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Droske, who lives in nearby Salmon, was floating the river just downstream of the fire start on July 17. After 3 p.m., her friend looked upstream toward Moose Creek and North Fork and remarked: “That’s a funny cloud.” It was a plume of smoke from the brand-new Moose fire. Once off the river, she knew she’d be working on the fire the next day: "When I woke up, the wind was rattling the windows of my house in Salmon and I was like, ‘This is not going to be good.’”

Miles Harris, a squad boss trainee on an engine with the Salmon-Challis National Forest, has been working structure protection since July 18. He was on the initial attack of the hours-old fire along Salmon River Road the day before.

“It was road protection at that point … try to keep the heat out of the bottom of the trees so they didn’t come down in the road,” he said. “It went really fast. In the first 10 minutes our IC called it 300 acres and started ordering the world an hour in.”

The fire now has top priority nationwide for air resources. Residents along the highway between Tower Creek and North Fork have been evacuated. Residents from North Fork north to Hughes Creek were advised to be ready to evacuate. The Central Idaho Dispatch Area was in extreme fire danger Tuesday.

An update on Tuesday morning pegged the fire at 37,264 acres and 10% contained, up from 23,320 acres and 0% contained on Friday. As many as 880 people were working the fire, including at least 23 hand crews and 35 engines from around the West, and aided by eight helicopters. Firefighters were also using drones to collect aerial imagery and to drop incendiary “ping-pong balls” to burn out areas that could impede the main fire.

Updated information on the fire’s growth and containment level was not available at press time Tuesday afternoon. An infrared mapping flight was scheduled for Tuesday night to more accurately determine the fire’s size. Updated containment information wasn’t available until each division reported back to Incident Command at the end of the day.

Salmon River Road is partially closed, with a pilot car leading vehicles through the blaze beginning at 6:30 a.m. daily and lasting as long as conditions permit. The fire is burning on both sides of that road. But the road will likely close for a period this week as crews work to lift a crashed helicopter from the Salmon River adjacent the road. The helicopter, a twin-rotor CH-47D Chinook helicopter operated by Alaska-basked ROTAK Helicopter Services, crashed around 3:30 p.m on July 21, killing both pilots.

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A Type-1 incident management team — the largest and most robust configuration of the interagency teams assigned to oversee wildfire response — took command of the incident at 6 a.m. July 20.

On Tuesday, conditions were calm compared to the prior week, when winds up to 50 mph drove the fire to expand by as much as 12,000 acres in a day. Fire activity this week “depends on how soon the inversion lifts (each day) and what the wind does,” said Deputy Incident Commander Sam Hicks, with Great Basin Type-1 Team 2. Hicks said the area is “notorious” for strong winds, especially in the canyons and along the ridges that border Highway 93.

“Possible dry lightning” Thursday and Friday, and the accompanying winds, could aggravate the fire toward the end of the week. But on Tuesday, Hicks didn’t foresee the same kind of strong winds that spread the fire last week. Whether Highway 93 remains open will depend on the weather and to what degree, if any, the fire spots over the highway to the east, he said.

“This fire has the potential to be here for a while,” he said, noting that Mother Nature “is holding all the cards.”

Firefighting efforts are focused on terrain where conditions and topography favor successful efforts.

“This country is especially difficult to fight fire in because of the terrain,” he said. "It’s steep and it’s hard to access. I think we’ve become wiser over the years about not sending crews into unfavorable terrain where there’s low chances of success.”

On the eastern front of the fire where residents are evacuated, Division K Supervisor Sheena Waters is overseeing operations between Tower Creek and North Fork, “essentially the head of the fire,” she said, spreading generally southeast. Around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Waters was near the mouth of Bobcat Gulch as a helicopter flew reconnaissance in the gulch to determine if abandoned historic cabins had burned. Smoke was too thick for a helicopter to see, so the crew sent a drone into the area after the helicopter left.

Waters’ primary focus was planning and executing structure protection near the fire front just west of the highway, where the fire reached the Salmon River in some places, and immediately east of the highway, along the road and up Fourth of July Creek and Tower Creek.

“We will not be the division that loses a house six or seven days later,” she said, explaining that crews will continue to monitor private property after the fire front passes to check for fires caused by smoldering embers.

Photos: Moose fire grows

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (1)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (2)

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Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (3)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (4)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (5)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (6)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (7)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (8)

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Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (9)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (10)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (11)

Moose fire grows as sweltering days, lightning loom (12)

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FAQs

What caused the Moose Fire? ›

SALMON — Investigators with the U.S. Forest Service have determined the Moose Fire was caused by an unextinguished and unattended campfire, which spread to adjacent vegetation on the afternoon of July 17.

Where is the Moose Fire in ID? ›

The Moose Fire has burned 130,110 acres -- about 203 square miles -- since July 17. It started on a bank along the Salmon River near Little Moose Creek and spread from grass and shrubs to timber in higher elevations on the Salmon-Challis National Forest about 5.6 miles west of North Fork in Lemhi County.

Where is Moose Fire located? ›

ORIGINAL: The human caused Moose Fire burning west and south of North Fork has burned 130,120 acres and is 80% contained. The fire started on July 17, 2022 at approximately 4:00 pm. and is located in the Salmon River mountains, 17 miles north of Salmon, Idaho. A mix of federal and private land is impacted.

How many acres is the Moose Fire in Idaho? ›

Moose Fire in Idaho grows over 125,000 acres is size, among the largest wildfires currently burning in the U.S. | Idaho News | khq.com.

How big is the Moose Fire? ›

News Releases — Moose Fire

Moose Fire Information 208-742-6690 (8am-8pm) | 2022.moose@firenet.gov Quick Facts Fire Location 17 miles N of Salmon, Idaho Size 130,130 acres Containment 80% Start Date ... The Moose Fire will be updated every other day starting today.

Is the Moose Fire in Idaho still burning? ›

The Moose Fire has been turned back to the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

What is the biggest fire in Idaho? ›

Idaho's largest wildfire, the Moose Fire has burned 125,993 acres. It's the second largest wildfire in the country, behind the Double Creek Fire in Oregon (149,944 acres burned).

How did the Moose Fire in Salmon start? ›

The blaze originally started on July 17, 2022; the fire was determined to be human caused. The specific cause and events leading up to the fire are still under investigation. The Forest Service said fire activity was expected to increase Tuesday due to hot, dry weather.

How big is the Salmon fire? ›

This fire is part of the Long Tom Complex. At approximately 1550, the fire makes a sudden high-intensity crown run up Wallace Creek, a side drainage of Salmon River Canyon. Over the next 90 minutes, this run will consume 3,500 acres.

How did the Moose Fire in Idaho start? ›

SALMON, ID - The Moose Fire began on July 17 due to an escaped campfire. It is located off the bank of Salmon River near the headwaters of Little Moose Creek on the North Fork Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

How contained is the Moose Fire in Idaho? ›

Smoke hanging over the Moose Fire on Sept. 11, 2022. SALMON, ID - The Moose Fire near Salmon, Idaho has grown to 126,925 acres and is 37% contained according to the Monday update.

Where is the Four Corners fire in Idaho? ›

It is located west of Lake Cascade, in the West Mountain range on the Payette and Boise National Forests.

Who started the Moose Fire in Idaho? ›

The Moose Fire, burning in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Lemhi County, has burned more than 130,000 acres. It was determined that the fire was caused by humans.

How many acres is the fire in Salmon, Idaho? ›

SALMON, ID - The Moose Fire near Salmon, Idaho has grown from 127,500 acres to 130,077 acres with containment growing to 47% contained according to the Wednesday update.

Where is the wildfire in Idaho? ›

Indian Ridge (Idaho)

The fire has been active this week primarily along the western and northern flanks and north of Indian Creek as it burns through steep, rugged, remote terrain with heavy surface fuels and dead standing timber. Indian Ridge Fire the night of August 18, 2022.

How long has Moose Fire been burning? ›

The Moose Fire has burned more than 200 square miles since July 17, when it started after a campfire was left unextinguished in a camping area in Lemhi County.

Where is the woodtick fire? ›

The lightning caused Woodtick Fire started as two separate fires on July 14, 2022, in a rugged and remote area on the Middle Fork Ranger District in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Firefighters made multiple attempts to directly engage with the fire.

What is a red flag fire warning? ›

A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these times extreme caution is urged by all residents, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still high.

Where did the Moose Fire start? ›

The Moose Fire began on July 17th near the confluence of Moose Creek and the Salmon River. The fire is determined to be human caused and remains under investigation. Great Basin Team 1 assumed command of the Moose Fire this morning, replacing the outgoing Great Basin Team 2.

Why are there so many wildfires in Idaho? ›

“We've definitely had an increase in (fire) activity occurring over the last month or so that is just an accumulation of hot, dry weather as well as low fuel moisture within our fine fuels,” Marshall Thompson, a regional press officer with the U.S. Forest Service told the Sun in a telephone interview.

How far is the fire from Salmon Idaho? ›

SALMON - The Moose Fire is burning in the Salmon-Challis National Forest about 17 miles north of Salmon, Idaho. The fire is currently 45, 113 acres in size and is at 17% containment. The forest service has assigned 934 personnel to fight the fire.

What is the largest fire in United States history? ›

In the summer of 1910, the largest fire in American history raged in the Northern Rockies.

What is the biggest fire in the world? ›

List of largest fires of the 21st century
RankNameCountry
12019–2020 Australian bushfire seasonAustralia
22021 Russia wildfiresRussia
32019 Siberia wildfiresRussia
42014 Northwest Territories firesCanada
9 more rows

How big is the black fire? ›

As of 21 May 2022, the blaze is over 120,000 acres and 4% contained. As of 31 May 2022, the blaze is over 246,648 acres and 28% contained. As of 9 June 2022, the blaze is over 298,440 acres and 44% contained. As of 25 June 2022, the blaze is over 325,133 acres and 70% contained.

How did the fires in Idaho start? ›

The fire, which was caused by lightning, is about 18% contained and has burned more than 10,100 acres, according to InciWeb, a clearinghouse for US fire information. The fire is impacting both Payette National Forest and Boise National Forest.

Is there fire in Yosemite right now? ›

All current fires within Yosemite National Park are 100% contained.

How far is Boise from Salmon? ›

How far is it from Salmon to Boise? The distance between Salmon and Boise is 158 miles. The road distance is 248.7 miles. How long does it take to get from Salmon to Boise?

Where is the Fork fire located? ›

Description: The fire was located at Interstate 5 and Grapevine Rd in the Grapevine in Southern California.

How close is Moose Fire to Salmon? ›

The Moose Fire continues to burn 17 miles north of Salmon in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Where is the Salmon River fire? ›

Summary: The Moose Fire started on Sunday, July 17th, 2022 at approximately 4:00 pm. The fire is located in the Salmon River mountains, 17 miles north of Salmon, Idaho. A mix of federal and private land is impacted. The terrain is difficult, and the fire is burning in grass, shrubs…

How did the Moose Fire in Salmon start? ›

The blaze originally started on July 17, 2022; the fire was determined to be human caused. The specific cause and events leading up to the fire are still under investigation. The Forest Service said fire activity was expected to increase Tuesday due to hot, dry weather.

How contained is the Moose Fire in Idaho? ›

Smoke hanging over the Moose Fire on Sept. 11, 2022. SALMON, ID - The Moose Fire near Salmon, Idaho has grown to 126,925 acres and is 37% contained according to the Monday update.

What is Moose Fire? ›

Moose Fire Grows to Over 122,000 Acres, the Largest Active Wildfire in the U.S. SALMON - Evacuations were ordered Wednesday night for areas a few miles north of the city of Salmon as the Moose Fire crossed the Ridge Road and moved downhill toward the city after 9 p.m.

How big is the Elmo fire? ›

21,349 Acres

Where did the Moose Fire start? ›

The Moose Fire began on July 17th near the confluence of Moose Creek and the Salmon River. The fire is determined to be human caused and remains under investigation. Great Basin Team 1 assumed command of the Moose Fire this morning, replacing the outgoing Great Basin Team 2.

How big is the Salmon fire? ›

This fire is part of the Long Tom Complex. At approximately 1550, the fire makes a sudden high-intensity crown run up Wallace Creek, a side drainage of Salmon River Canyon. Over the next 90 minutes, this run will consume 3,500 acres.

Who started the Moose Fire in Idaho? ›

The Moose Fire, burning in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Lemhi County, has burned more than 130,000 acres. It was determined that the fire was caused by humans.

Where is the Four Corners fire in Idaho? ›

It is located west of Lake Cascade, in the West Mountain range on the Payette and Boise National Forests.

Where are the fires in Idaho burning? ›

By: Clark Corbin - September 13, 2022 4:30 am

Several large fires are burning in Idaho, including the Moose Fire burning north of Salmon, the Four Corners Fire burning in the Payette and Boise national forests outside of Cascade and the Ross Creek Fire burning in the Sawtooth National Forest south of Alturas Lake.

Where is the wild fire in Idaho? ›

Indian Ridge (Idaho)

The fire has been active this week primarily along the western and northern flanks and north of Indian Creek as it burns through steep, rugged, remote terrain with heavy surface fuels and dead standing timber. Indian Ridge Fire the night of August 18, 2022.

Where is the woodtick fire? ›

The lightning caused Woodtick Fire started as two separate fires on July 14, 2022, in a rugged and remote area on the Middle Fork Ranger District in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Firefighters made multiple attempts to directly engage with the fire.

What is a red flag fire warning? ›

A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these times extreme caution is urged by all residents, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still high.

How far is the fire from Salmon Idaho? ›

SALMON - The Moose Fire is burning in the Salmon-Challis National Forest about 17 miles north of Salmon, Idaho. The fire is currently 45, 113 acres in size and is at 17% containment. The forest service has assigned 934 personnel to fight the fire.

Is the Elmo Fire still burning? ›

The fire is still 0% contained at this time. Pre-evacuation warnings are still in place for people living south of Lake Mary Ronan Road and west of Highway 93. Highway 28 is now open. The CSKT Division of Fire now estimates the Elmo Fire to be 10,923 acres in size and remains 0% contained.

Where is the Elmo 2 Fire? ›

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Elmo 2 Fire burning in Lake County now measures 21,345 acres, according to overnight infrared mapping.

Where is Elmo Fire now? ›

Elmo Fire Update August 18, 2022 Location: Northwest of Elmo, MT Estimated Size: 21,349 acres Containment: 78% Personnel: 40 Incident Command: Transitioned from Type 3 to a Type 4 local...

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