Feds order heightened fire restrictions for Idaho forests

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Federal forest managers are ordering heightened fire restrictions on public and private land in central and southwestern Idaho starting later this week, a response to hot, dry conditions and very high wildfire danger throughout the region.

Meanwhile, numerous wildfires continue to burn in Idaho's forest and grass lands, though nearly all of them are in remote areas where no structures are threatened.

Beginning Thursday, stage 1 fire restrictions go into effect on the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests, as well as all private, state and Bureau of Land Management-protected territory within Ada, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Washington counties. Also included in the restrictions are portions of Idaho, Adams, Valley, Custer, Elmore, Camas and Blaine counties.

That means most fires are prohibited except within designated recreation sites, with just a few exceptions. Smoking is also forbidden, except within an enclosed vehicle, building or designated recreation site.

"These restrictions are intended to decrease the chance of any preventable fires," said David Olson, a spokesman for the Boise National Forest, in a statement on Monday.

Nearly 790 personnel are still working to contain the nearly 16-square-mile Lodgepole Fire on Corkscrew Mountain in the Salmon-Challis National Forest that's been burning for nine days.

That's the largest fire in Idaho, followed by the 12-square-mile Fire Grove Fire first reported on Sunday burning in brush in the mountains just north of Gooding.

That fast-moving fire crossed State Highway 46 in multiple locations just southeast of the Mormon Reservoir, forcing the road's temporary closure.

But rural fire crews who tackled the blaze kept the flames from consuming a nearby structure and were making good progress on containing the fire by late Monday.

And the 8-square-mile Ridge Fire, burning in heavy subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, and Douglas fir 15 miles north of Lowman, continued to keep a crew of about 420 firefighters busy - as well as helicopters that have logged over 400 flight hours and dropped more than 1 million gallons of water since the blaze was reported on July 16.

The Ridge Fire is 35 percent contained, according to the National Interagency Fire Center's latest report on Monday.