Raft Fire triples in size, just 20% contained

Credit: ALXSw/ First Person

Raft Fire triples in size, just 20% contained

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by Bonnie Shelton

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KTVB.COM

Posted on September 2, 2013 at 4:36 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 3 at 8:17 AM

WEISER -- Crews are focusing many of their resources on battling the Raft Fire, one of two wildfires burning in the Weiser Complex. It's burning in the Benton Creek area and is only about 20 percent contained.

Firefighters say the Raft Fire has now burned more than 16,000 acres. It tripled in size over the weekend.

Fire managers are warning hunters and campers to stay out of the area so firefighters can attack the flames at the fire line and try to keep them from spreading farther into the Payette National Forest.

More than 600 people are hard at work battling the Weiser Complex Fire.

"If it blows down into Highway 71 corridor, we don't want that to happen," said Incident Commander Mike Whalen.

The Weiser Complex is made up of two fires: the Hells Canyon Fire and the Raft Fire. Both were started by lightning strikes and are burning in the Payette National Forest.

"We are going to keep them separate," said Whalen.

The Raft Fire is only about 20 percent contained.  The Snake River created a natural barrier on the fire's west side, but there is a lot of dry fuel to the east of the fire line.

"We've had a lot of hunters trying to get in," said Whalen. "We've had folks sneaking past the road closures at night. We just don't want to have anyone become unaccounted for."

Just to the west of Cambridge is the Sturgill Peak/Hit Mountain area.  That area is closed right now, and the roads to get in are closed as well. They don't want hunters or campers coming into this area and firefighters are working their hardest on the Raft Fire. Crews are trying to make sure the fire doesn't spread into the Sturgill Peak area.

"It's a tinder box out there, so that's kind of a concern at this point," said fire information officer Bernie Pineda.

Crews spent the day setting up and mobilizing hot shots and attack crews.

The Hells Canyon Fire, located south of the Raft Fire, is now 100 percent contained.  Firefighters are confident they can rehabilitate the area.

Crews are focused on containing the Raft Fire, too.

"We will get this done," said Pineda.

So far, fighting the Weiser Complex fires has cost about $2 million.

Whalen says there are no buildings in the path of the fire right now, but they have structure protection crews available if necessary.  He says three outbuildings have been burned.

Fire managers ask the public to contact the Weiser Ranger District at 208-549-4200 for an update on area closures.

A public meeting is being held at the Weiser High School auditorium Monday.  It starts at 6:30 p.m.

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