BOISE -- Immediate evacuations are in effect for residents living along Idaho State Highway 93 near the North Fork community as the Mustang Complex Fire heads their way.
Fire managers report the fire is within two miles of highway 93, but warn that it also threatens a radial feed distribution line that services roughly 1,000 residents.
Idaho Power crews are stationed at the Mustang Fire to help firefighters protect the power line. Idaho Power spokesperson Lynette Berriochoa said power crews are often stationed alongside firefighters.
"Some of the same challenges that firefighter’s face; our crews face," said Berriochoa.
The 280,000 acre Mustang Complex of fires sparked back in July, and is now heading toward homes.
An immediate Level 3 evacuation order is now in effect along the Highway 93 corridor from North Fork north to Gibbonsville and Quartz Creek.
A command post and base camp about a mile north of North Fork is now home to more than 900 firefighters. Idaho Power crews are there too. "All day everyday-- in fire gear and protective clothing, they have been going out and doing work along the power lines to reduce any fuels they can," said Berriochoa.
The goal is to minimize impact to those residents who are already feeling the stress from evacuations and the threat of property loss. Berrichoa says Idaho Power resources have been lost to fires throughout the summer as well.
"We have seen a lot of fires this summer," Berrichoa said. "We have had a lot of poles damaged and lost to fire."
The nearby Trinity Ridge Fire has burned over 146,000 acres in the Boise National Forest, damaging power poles.
"If a power line is burned through or otherwise taken out of service, we try to what we call ‘back feed’ and make power available through another line another source," said Berriochoa.
Because of this, when a fire does ignite, power crews pay attention.
"When we hear gusty winds we know that the fire level fire activity will probably increase, and there is the potential for wind damage and fire damage to our line," she said.
In addition, Idaho Power crews have a responsibility to protect their lines too that is also, why they are stationed at fire camps and remain on standby for fires.
"They do what they can to try and protect the poles in some kind of retardant or they were out there with weed eaters today trying to clear fuels from out under the line," Berriochoa said.
Winds are predicted to be gusting high and fire danger still exists for the Mustang Complex Fire, but Idaho Power crews will work as quick as they can to get power back up and running when a fire knocks it off the grid.
"When a fire burns through we wait for clearance to get in there when its safe and pretty quickly and systematically replace the poles and get the line back in service," said Berriochoa.
Berriochoa also warns about backup generators. She said if you have a backup generator, use caution, when you leave it.
There is a chance the generator can back feed and energize and that can harm power crews who think the line is not energized.