MOUNTAIN HOME -- The Idaho Department of Transportation has reopened a portion of Interstate 84 near Mountain Home after a quickly-moving wildfire forced safety officials to close it down at approximately 5:30 Monday afternoon.
Highway 20 near Mountain Home is also back open after being closed for just over two hours around the same time.
As of Tuesday, firefighters continue to battle the flames, smoke, and hazy conditions north of the Mountain Home area. Firefighters now say the fire has grown over 15,000 acres.
Elmore County Sheriff's dispatchers say the wildfire isn't currently threatening any homes or buildings.
FIRE CLOSES THE FREEWAY
On Monday, I-84 was previously blocked from exit 74 at Simco Road to exit 114 at I-84B, east of the Mountain Home area.
Fire officials say the Benwalk Fire was sparked by lighting around 4:15 Monday afternoon, seven miles north of Glenns Ferry, and quickly made its way to the Mountain Home area.
Firefighters with the Bureau of Land Management say the fire stalled near Mountain Home, burning a large swath of sage and grass between Bennett Mountain Road and Walker Road. Firefighters say 15,000 acres were burned by the fire.
As of Monday, resources fighting the fire included: 18 fire engines, five fire crews, six bulldozers, two water tenders, and multiple aircraft. Mountain Home Rural Fire Department was also helping to provide resources.
Mountain Home police and firefighters did evacuate several homes, businesses, and even hotels near the Pilot Travel Center on Monday evening. Those residents were allowed back into their homes late Monday night. No homes or buildings were reported damaged.
On Monday evening, the Idaho Chapter of the American Red Cross briefly opened an emergency shelter in Mountain Home to help potential fire victims.
Red Cross Director of Services Sue Robinson told KTVB the emergency shelter remained empty throughout the night. "We did open a shelter there at the Elks Lodge, but actually we ended up not needing it," Robinson said.
Due to the recent increase in fires throughout southwest Idaho, BLM firefighters have now asked for outside help from neighboring states. Officials say crews from California and Oregon will now send extra hand-crews, fire engines, and bulldozers to help firefighters in Idaho.
LETTING THE FIRE BURN
Firefighters reportedly have created a fire barrier with bulldozers and hand-crews around much of the Benwalk Fire north of Mountain Home. According to BLM spokesperson Mallory Eils, firefighters now plan to let the fire burn throughout the day and extinguish itself.
Eils says folks in and around Mountain Home should expect to see smoke throughout the day.
Other fires BLM officials are currently monitoring include:
South Indian Fire
The South Indian Fire burned over 5,000 acres near Bruneau Dunes State Park, but there was no major damage to the park or its facilities. The park was evacuated Monday evening. Portions of the park that were threatened by fire are now safe. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation plans to reopen the park to visitors on Wednesday, July 11. That includes campgrounds, the visitor center and observatory.
Burned around 250 acres 12 miles southeast of Jordan Valley, Oregon in the Owyhee Mountains.
Burned around nine acres three miles west of Triangle, Idaho in the Owyhee Mountains.
Mile Marker 43 Hwy 78 Fire
Around 400 acres burning east of Oreana, Idaho.
Burned around 200 acres on the south edge of Little Jacks Creek Wilderness.
Big B Fire
Burned around one-tenth of an acre 13 miles southeast of Jordan Valley, Oregon in the Owyhee Mountains.