Idaho wildfire burning near Lake Cascade forces evacuations

August 19, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Evacuations are in place ahead of a west-central Idaho wildfire that continues to grow despite a full-suppression effort by firefighters that includes water-scooping aircraft skimming Lake Cascade, a popular boating and fishing destination.

“The terrain as well as the fuel where the fire is burning makes it incredibly difficult,” said fire spokeswoman Lisa Wilkolak on Friday. “We’ve seen spotting up to half a mile, and that adds to the growth of the fire.”

Spotting occurs when embers shoot out from the fire and create new fires.

Wilkolak said hot and dry conditions have also been hampering firefighting efforts.

The Valley County sheriff’s office on Friday said multiple roads on West Mountain west of the lake are closed and small communities in the vacation and second-home area have been told to evacuate ahead of the Four Corners Fire.

The 9-square-mile (23-square-kilometer) wildfire is on the west side of Cascade Lake and not a threat to the town of Cascade on the east side of the lake, officials said. Idaho Highway 55, a main north-south connector in the state, remains open, Wilkolak said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The lightning-caused fire started Aug. 13 and is burning in heavy timber as well as grasses in rugged terrain. About 400 firefighters and support staff are assigned to the blaze. Wilkolak said fire bosses have requested at least another 100 firefighters as well as additional aircraft and fire engines.

Four of the nation’s six CL-415 aircraft, commonly called super scoopers, have been skimming Lake Cascade on the fly to pick up water to drop on the fire. Multiple helicopters and retardant-dropping aircraft have also been attacking the blaze.

Wilkolak said no structures have been lost and there have been no reports of injuries to firefighters.

She said heavy smoke has been a problem for residents on the north end of the lake, and smoke has also reached the vacation area of McCall, about 30 miles north of Cascade.

Tamarack Resort, a ski and snowboard area in the winter that also has summer activities, is on the west side of the lake north of the wildfire. The resort remains open despite smoky conditions. The resort has opened its parking area to residents and campers forced to evacuate.

ADVERTISEMENT

Also Friday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report from its investigation into a helicopter crash that killed two wildland firefighter pilots last month.

Thomas Hayes, 41, of Post Falls, Idaho, and Jared Bird, 36, of Anchorage, Alaska, died from injuries they sustained when their CH-47D Series “Chinook” crashed in the Salmon River on July 21. The pilots were employees of the Anchorage-based ROTAK Helicopter Services, which was contracted to help fight the Moose Fire burning about 21 miles (34 kilometers) north of Salmon.

The preliminary NTSB report said the helicopter was equipped with a water bucket used to pull water from the Salmon River to drop on the wildfire. The pilots had been in the air for about an hour and a half and had already completed several water drops, but they crashed into the river as they prepared to dip the bucket again.

Investigators are still examining the wreckage and testing components of the helicopter, which was pulled from the river by crane, according to the report.