Pine, Featherville residents struggle after Elk Complex Fire

Credit: Zach Stotland/ KTVB

Pine, Featherville residents struggle after Elk Complex Fire

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by Andrea Lutz and KTVB.COM

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBandrealutz

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 21 at 1:14 PM

ELMORE COUNTY – Fire crews continue to work hard in Idaho battling some of the biggest wildfires burning in the nation.

However, the flames inside Idaho’s largest forest fire -- the Elk Complex Fire -- are finally starting to simmer, and resources are starting to leave.

On Tuesday, the fire was 75-percent contained but had burned about 130,000 acres.

The residents of nearby communities Featherville and Pine have been through this before, but many didn’t expect it to happen two years in a row.

In 2012, the Trinity Ridge Fire scorched around 146,000 acres, burning much longer than the Elk Complex Fire has so far. Yet, the Elk Complex Fire has been much more destructive, causing evacuations and burning 38 homes and cabins in the Fall Creek area near the Anderson Ranch Reservoir.

EXPERIENCING HARDSHIP

Fire managers have slowly been opening roads and allowing residents back in. Many are experiencing hardship on a scale they haven't experienced before.

“I have loss this year that we didn't have last year because we had power and water, and we don't have power and water this year,” said Cyndie Christensen, owner of Cyndie's Featherville Cafe.

During last year's Trinity Ridge Fire, we heard from Christensen many times. Her family stayed through evacuations to feed the firefighters and in doing so they lost business. This year, her cafe went dark because she lost power for a week.

“Some of the stuff in the freezers -- I have to go back and remake everything that I do on a rotation -- so it’s been a lot, you know?” Christensen said. “I didn’t have that last year you know, I have loss this year.”

RESIDENTS REGROUP

Experts say the fire activity itself is also different than last year. Christensen agrees.

“Last year, the fire was just munched its way through here and there, and this year its munching and spitting and the embers were going quite a ways,” explained Christensen.

Closer to the burn, in Pine, others were impacted as well.

“Horribly, yeah we're slow,” said Jordan Nitz who works at the Nitz' Pine Store.

Nitz has been working for her family's small business for 12 years, and her mother Kris said she learned a valuable lesson from last year's Trinity Ridge Fire -- the need for more insurance. That's because the food in their coolers and freezers was also damaged.

“We were expecting it because of last year, but we weren't expecting it that fast,” said Nitz.

As things calm down a bit on the fire scene for Pine and Featherville and visitors and residents come back, business owners are hoping to still end the summer on a high note.

“I mean everybody understands what we have been going through, so,” said Christensen.

The Elk Complex Fire started on August 8 as a result from several lightning fires that are burning together.

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