Cooler weather, rain helps crews fighting Pioneer Fire

Crews battling the largest wildfire in the nation are getting some help from the weather as lower temperatures and higher humidity slowed the growth of the Pioneer Fire over the last couple days.

BOISE - Crews battling the largest wildfire in the nation are getting some help from the weather as lower temperatures and higher humidity slowed the growth of the Pioneer Fire over the last couple days.

The fire has burned more than 181,000 acres - about 283 square miles - since it sparked north of Idaho City on July 18. It is 55 percent contained.

A cold front dropped temperatures into the 30s overnight and brought small amounts of rain to the area. Fire officials say the cooler weather helped slow the fire's spread and allowed crews to continue building lines around the northern flank of the fire above Highway 17.

This break in the weather, however, may be short lived. 

"We're going to warm back up slightly towards the end of the week and we're concerned about that," said Information Officer Denise Ottaviano. "That's why we're cautious not to go too direct with putting fire line in because if it gets hotter and drier, the fire activity is going to increase."

On Monday, crews planned to fight the fire directly in the Scott Creek area in an attempt to push the fire into the Sheep Trail fire scar from 2006.

"We're also looking for chances to go either direct or indirect just above the fire's northern edge because we don't want it to progress any further north," said Ottaviano. "When we put in direct fire line we're working closer to the fire's edge."

Over the last few weeks, the direct fire line strategy has been too dangerous for firefighters, but the favorable weather conditions have created an opportunity for crews to attack the fire. 

RELATED: Scientists use Pioneer Fire to study wildfire weather

In places where the fire is already contained, crews are working to repair the habitat in those areas. 

"We're doing a lot of what we call suppression repair which is the repair of the suppression lines," said Ottaviano. "A lot of that work involves using machinery to position a lot of vegetation, branches and logs back on the fire line to prevent erosion."  

Nearly 1,100 personnel are currently working the fire, which is not expected to be contained until mid-October.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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