FEATHERVILLE -- The Trinity Ridge Fire burned nearly 147,000 acres of the Boise National Forest this summer. For a few tense days, the fire threatened to burn hundreds of homes in Pine and Featherville.
When the two towns were in harm’s way, the fire became the nation's highest priority fire. Thanks to hundreds of firefighters and hours of preparation, the towns were saved.
After burning for 73 days, the Trinity Ridge Fire was officially contained on October 15.
For people who live in Featherville and Pine, life is slowly getting back to normal. “We were very happy when we came back, and there was still lots of trees and green on the mountains,” said Gary Freeman, a Featherville homeowner.
Firefighters started burnout operations in the Freeman’s backyard. The flames were only feet away from their home. Two months after the fire started, Freeman and his wife Denise say in places, it is hard to tell there even was a fire.
But the couple can still feel the impact. “There are still challenges,” said Gary Freeman.
The Freemans like many others in their community have experienced economic challenges.
“It has been pretty slow,” said Denise Freeman. The couple owns a cabin rental company. Since the fire started, they've only had one reservation.
“The biggest challenge is business revenue that was lost,” said Gary Freeman.
Up the road from the Freemans, Cindy Christensen, owner of Cindy’s Featherville Café, is struggling with the same challenge.
“We lost a lot of money in the month of August,” said Christensen. She and her husband kept their café open, even when others around them evacuated. But because the road was closed few people could come to eat there.
Christensen says August is usually one of the most profitable months. Typically, it carries her through the winter. This year she is counting on customers who have come since the road to Featherville reopened.
She says the fire has even brought a few new faces to her café. “We heard about the fire. We saw the fire. We want to come up and support you.”
Christensen says their support has been amazing, and she hopes it will continue through the winter.
The ash, heavy smoke and flames may be gone, but they remain a concern this winter.
“There are areas they are afraid of mudslides and debris flows, and if we get very heavy rains, we will get flooding,” said Gary Freeman.
The U.S. Forest Service says those risks could be here for the next five to 10 years. Crews are doing their best to minimize the damage.
“We have one year from the date of containment to implement our emergency and stabilization treatments,” said Terry Hardy, the Burned Area Emergency Response Coordinator for the Boise National Forest.
Hardy says right now the focus is on protecting the roads and trails before winter hits so those pathways will still be here in the spring.
He says when people come out to enjoy the Boise National Forest, they should keep an eye out for trees that might fall and loose paths.
If the challenges from the Trinity Ridge Fire last a year or 10 years, most homeowners in Pine and Featherville tell us they will just take things one day at a time.