BOISE – Several areas of Custer County were evacuated Friday as the Halstead Fire creeps closer and closer to homes and other buildings. The fire is currently 18 miles outside of Stanley, but it’s the Yankee Fork area that has the attention of firefighters.
There are roughly 30 homes in the Yankee Fork area, 12 were occupied when the Custer County Sheriff’s Office went door to door Thursday to hand out evacuation notices.
The Yankee Fork area includes the area north of Sunbeam, Custer City and Dredge Camp. That’s all east and down river from Stanley.
The evacuations from Sunbeam to Casino Creek remain in effect. Lower Stanley and Stanley are safe and not under an evacuation notice. The Thompson Creek Mine is not affected at this time.
The smoke from the Halstead Fire can be seen from many miles away. The fire has burned over 83,000 acres, and is now about five miles away from the Yankee Fork area, with the winds pushing it closer every day.
"We are watching that very closely," said Bruce Palmer with the U.S. Forest Service.
The trees are dense and dry in the area, but it's a scar left from the Potato Fire from 2006 that's slowing down the Halstead Fire.
"We're hoping that the change in the vegetative type will slow the fire down and moderate the fire behavior," said Palmer.
That's giving people who live in that area a chance to evacuate. Sandy Coates with the Custer County Disaster Services says there are 31 homes in the area, most are second homes. Twelve were occupied when the Custer County Sheriff's Office issued the evacuation Thursday afternoon. Residents of six homes left the area, while six others remained.
"One of the ones that wanted to stay has said that they will only stay as long as the firefighters are there. When the firefighters leave, they will leave," said Coates.
Custer County Search and Rescue has been authorized to assist people in evacuations if needed. You may obtain assistance from Search and Rescue by calling 879-2232. You will need to provide a detailed description of your residence and what you need assistance with.
Homes aren't the only thing in the path of the fire, there are government buildings, seven campgrounds, several historical sites, the ghost town of Custer and the Custer Museum.
"We've done everything we possibly can to try to keep it safe," said Coates.
Now everyone is at the mercy of Mother Nature.
"It's just not safe with the terrain and the fire conditions to put firefighters out in front of this fire," said Palmer.
Firefighters will stay in the evacuation area as long as they can to make sure the homes and history are preserved. The fire is about five miles away and moving toward the evacuated area, but it is still uncertain if the flames will reach the area.