BOISE -- Idaho Gov. Butch Otter flew over and into the wildfires Friday that have destroyed so much of the Idaho wilderness.
The governor said the hard work of all these crews from across the Northwest fighting tirelessly is impressive. KTVB photographer Paul Boehlke was with the governor as he surveyed the fire damage and talked to crews on the fire lines.
Otter's first stop on his aerial tour in a Blackhawk helicopter was in Pine where the situation on the Pony and Elk Complex Fires looks relatively good right now. Elk Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey was also the incident commander on last year's Trinity Ridge Fire in that same area. He told the governor that this wildfire is much different than 2012. The conditions are so dry that this fire has burned almost as much acreage in eight days as the Trinity Ridge Fire consumed in 73 days.
After flying over the McCan Fire near Fairfield, the chopper landed in Blaine County where crews are battling the Beaver Creek Fire, which is currently the number one priority fire in the nation. Otter talked to county commissioners, the incident commander, state Sen. Michelle Stennett and firefighters. They discussed the quick movement of this fire under, again, these dry conditions.
Once the governor landed back in Boise, his attention shifted to the mandatory evacuations in the Wood River Valley. He says that if you're ordered to get out, to get out, because that fire is probably coming. "Those folks' job is to fight fire, not rescue people, and evacuate them after they were told to do it, and refused to do it. I understand private property. I understand you want to protect your property. But, I will guarantee you that nobody is going to go out of their way to get you out of your house, if it isn't necessary."
Otter said the state might mobilize the National Guard to help with traffic control to get those people on the road, especially since there's a huge widening project right now on Highway 75.
The governor thought about 3,500 people were evacuated by the Castle Rock Fire in 2007. Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said with the 1,600 homes evacuated that means several thousand people. So, as far as evacuations, this is one of the worst fires Idaho has seen in recent history.