BOISE -- Two large wildfires sparked in the Boise National Forest this week. State officials say both are burning at high elevation and pose considerable risk to firefighters.
The Summit and Ridge fires are scorching state and federal lands in the vicinity of Idaho City and Lowman.
Hundreds of firefighters, dozens of engine crews, and a contingency of helicopters and water tankers are now battling both. The challenge, according to state officials, is to stop the flames from igniting smaller "spot" fires in the vicinity of each major burn.
Yet, while the 250-acre Summit Fire is burning relatively close to State Highway 21 north of Idaho City, the fire causing the most concern is burning in a wilderness area near Lowman.
Dave Olsen with the Boise National Forest says the Ridge Fire is so powerful and remote, it could burn until the snow flies.
"We know the area is conducive to large-sized fires and longer-duration fires," Olsen told KTVB, quickly adding "and we know there's at least a month-and-a-half or two months of dry, hot weather ahead of us."
Bottom line: Olsen says there's going to be a very strong focus on both fires, and folks should expect smoke and firefighters in the area for days, if not weeks to come.
"If you're driving up highway 21 right now, you're going to see the column coming off the Ridge Fire," Olsen said.
Firefighters say the 260-acre Summit Fire is burning in Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir about 14 miles northeast of Idaho City and four miles north of Pilot Peak Lookout.
The location is near the popular Mores Creek Summit network of roads and trails. No homes are threatened by the fire, but one older cabin is nearby, according to the Idaho Department of Lands.
About 200 firefighters are said to be working to control this fire, which was caused by lightning on Tuesday, July 16.
The fire made no overnight progress Thursday, according to public information officer Emily Callihan with the Idaho Department of Lands. However, Callihan did say that dangerous overnight conditions prompted officials to pull firefighters from the fire lines due to safety issues.
"It could torch and spot somewhere firefighters aren't aware of, and if it started burning heavily, firefighters might not know and become trapped," Callihan explained.
Callihan also said more firefighters are expected to arrive on Saturday to fight the fire. That's when a regional type II incident management team will arrive and set up base camp in Crouch, Idaho.
Resources assigned to the fire include one helicopter, two heavy air tankers, three single engine air tankers, 6 engines, 8 smoke jumpers, and eleven 20-person hand crews.
Firefighters report the 850-acre Ridge Fire started sometime Tuesday night about 15 miles north of Lowman. The fire is burning in dead, highly flammable, pine bark beetle-infested timber, according to Dave Olsen with the Boise National Forest.
The fire is said to be burning through sub-alpine fir, scattering embers up to one-quarter of a mile from the main fire.
A Thursday update by the Boise National Forest indicated the fire was burning "dangerously," and firefighters had been pulled out due to the conditions.
On Friday, a type II regional incident command team took over fire operations.
Olsen says the team's current plan is to fly three firefighting crews into the wilderness to construct a fire line on the western edge of the fire.
All main roads in the area are open, but two back country roads and several trails in the vicinity are now closed.
No fire line has been established so far, according to reports.