BOISE -- Officials say bad weather is expected to fuel three of Idaho's largest wildfires, and could cause more problems for several mountain communities.
National fire managers say the Halstead Fire, Trinity Ridge Fire, and Mustang Complex Fire could spread faster and further due to thunderstorms and gusty winds on Tuesday and Wednesday.
National fire managers say the Trinity Ridge Fire is currently the nation's highest priority wildfire.
TRINITY RIDGE FIRE
On Monday, more than 100 members of the Idaho National Guard were deployed to the communities of Pine and Featherville to conduct security patrols near evacuated homes. Several national guard helicopters are also in service there.
The Trinity Ridge Fire has burned more than 90,000 acres in the Boise National Forest after it sparked on August 3rd. The Elmore County Sheriff's Office ordered a mandatory evacuation of Featherville on Friday due to thick smoke and poor visibility.
More than 1,126 firefighters are currently battling the nearby flames, which are only about 3 miles from the sparsely-populated town.
Alan Bermensolo, Mountain Home Fire Chief, says local firefighters and other emergency personnel will stay "as long as it takes" to protect the area's 500 homes and cabins.
Officials expect the fire to reach the town any day.
Idaho's largest actively-burning wildfire was temporarily slowed by scattered rain showers on Sunday. The fire has burned almost 92,000 acres since it started back in July.
More than 500 firefighters are on the job. A fire information meeting is planned at the Challis Middle School Auditorium at 7 p.m. Monday.
Evacuations are still in place for the lower Hwy. 75 corridor starting at, but not including lower Stanley, toward the Sunbeam Store and Casino Creek area. About 9 homes are said to be within that corridor.
Highway 21 and Highway 75 remain open within the closure/evacuation area.
Officials say a separate evacuation order has been lifted for the Yankee Fork / Custer / and Diamond D Ranch areas on the fire's eastern flank. However, that area is still within the fire's official closure area and remains closed to the public.
The closely-related Bench Fire near Banner Summit on Hwy. 21 is 100 percent contained. A related closure has been lifted in that area.
A large area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest is currently closed due to the fire. For more information, see the InciWeb Halstead Fire website.
MUSTANG COMPLEX FIRE
Officials say it's difficult to know if the massive, 89,000 acre Mustang Complex Fire will reach populated areas before rain and snow cool it off this fall. More than 400 firefighters are currently tackling that blaze about 60 miles east of Salmon, Idaho.
Public information officer Brian Harris says the fire is currently moving northeast toward Montana, but told KTVB on Monday "the potential for this fire to grow in the next few days is amazing."
The reason: wind gusts of up to 30-miles per hour are forecast in the next few days.
Harris says dozens of homes along the 35-mile-long Salmon River Road near the community of North Fork are threatened by the fire.
Firefighters believe the areas most threatened include the Spring Creek, Indian Creek, and Squaw Creek drainages.
The Salmon River remains open to rafting and jet boat recreationists. All recreationists are required to stop at the North Fork Ranger Station prior to proceeding down river. The Salmon River Road is closed to the public, except for river recreationists.
A tentative fire information meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 22nd in North Fork. More information will be communicated as arrangements are made.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The National Forest Service maintains the Inciweb fire information site with links to all actively burning fires in Idaho.