BOISE - Fire managers are accustomed to dealing with outside forces creating challenges for firefighters. Usually those outside forces involve weather or difficult terrain.
But in recent days, technology-based issues have caused delays for crews working two of Idaho's wildfires.
On Saturday, air operations for the Rattlesnake Creek Fire were shut down after a drone was seen over the fire, officials said. Helicopters had been dropping water on spot fires along the fire perimeter before being grounded due to the drone.
This was at least the second time that a drone has grounded aerial operations on the fire.
Flying a drone near a wildfire is punishable under the federal law against resisting or interfering with the efforts of firefighters to extinguish a fire.
The 8,000-acre fire is burning in timber and grass on the west side of U.S. Highway 95 near Pollock, and is spreading in Adams County. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire is 28 percent contained. A Level 3 Evacuation order remains in effect from the Adams County Line to Hillman Basin Road to the west of U.S. 95.
In the Salmon-Challis National Forest, operations on the Rabbit Foot Fire were being hampered on Sunday due to what fire managers described as "intermittent failure of the primary radio systems."
Officials said the fire operations would remain limited until reliable ground communications are reestablished. Stressing that safety of fire personnel and the public is top priority, officials said that crews will continue to fight the fire where communications are good.
The Rabbit Foot Fire was sparked by lightning on Aug. 2, and has burned nearly 35,000 acres about 22 miles north of Challis. It is just 3 percent contained.