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Elkhorn Fire burns 26,048 acres, flood watch in effect

A flood watch is in effect for Sunday afternoon and burn scar areas could see mudslides, rockslides and debris flows.

IDAHO, USA — The Elkhorn Fire burning in the Salmon River corridor is "creeping and smoldering" now due to heavy rainfall from Hurricane Hilary, fire officials say. It is 26,048 acres and is 68% complete.

On Sunday, officials reported that a flood watch is in effect until Tuesday afternoon and flood prone and burn scar areas could see mudslides, rockslides and debris flows. Boaters should also be on lookout for any falling rocks or other debris.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Removal of some equipment upriver will start after the a flood watch.

The fire was discovered July 24, roughly 40 miles east of Riggins and began along the south side of the Salmon River. Command of the Elkhorn Fire will transition from Great Basin Incident Management Team 2 to National Incident Management Organization Team 4 on Thursday, Aug. 17, at 6 a.m.

Boaters entering the Salmon River at Corn Creek continue communication with personnel on scene. Boaters are still required to stop at Hancock Rapids, as detailed in the Aug. 15 update below. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and Payette National Forest have implemented a closure order for the Elkhorn Fire area and nearby roads and trails. 

The U.S. Forest Service said the closure area includes both sides of the Salmon River, but does not includes the Salmon River Wild and Scenic Corridor. For more information on the closure order, click here

All aircraft, includes drones, must stay out of the Temporary Flight Restriction area between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., if not assigned to the fire area. The restriction has decreased to a two-mile buffer around the Elkhorn Fire's perimeter.

A map of the Elkhorn Fire as of Tuesday, Aug. 15:

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Aug. 15 Update:

Firefighters are monitoring the west perimeter near 421 road. The heavy admissions task force is working north and east of the fire to reduce fallen fuel load for disposal and hand crews are working more days to construct heavy fuel breaks, the forest service said.

Temperatures are getting hotter, so smoke can be seen mostly across the south and east of the fire. Thursday could bring rain.

Boaters in the area are required to stop at Hancock Rapids at river mile 26.1 to get more information from a forest representative when passing though. Recreating through the fire is allowed but after leaving Hancock Rapids, boaters cannot stop until they reach Magpie Creek Camp. Following Magpie Creek, boaters can camp on a first come first serve basis.

Aug. 14 Update:

Firefighters are still working along Trout Creek and Whitewater Wilderness Ranch to ensure properties near the Salmon River Corridor are secure

Over the next few days, hot, dry and stable conditions will continue, and firefighters could see a "potential for open flames, torching trees, spot fires, and small areas of spread where slope and fuels align," the forest service said.

Aug. 13 Update:

The Elkhorn Fire is currently at 25,966 acres with 40% complete. Crews are continuing with mechanical line towards the Magruder Corridor, they are making good progress. Crews were placed back into Lantz Bar Saturday and are implementing structure protection by installing water systems and wrapping Forest Service infrastructure and facilities in Arctic Lodge and The River of No Return area. This area will be unstaffed beginning today, although Fire Managers will continue to monitor the fire behavior and will be re-staffed back as needed to protect structures.

Hot and dry conditions will continue for the next several days as a ridge of high pressure passes over the Pacific Northwest. Triple digits are expected by Tuesday along with afternoon humidity values of 10 to 20 percent. Northeast winds throughout the fire area will filter into the Salmon River drainage while bringing down drainage flow to the lower elevations. By Monday, winds will shift back to the West and Southwest. The daily air quality reports will be available through the Elkhorn Fire information page at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident-information/idpaf-elkhorn-fire.

Aug. 10 Update:

  • The mapping mission conducted Aug. 9 resulted in an adjustment to acreage - new estimation is 25,786 acres.
  • Containment remains at 12%.
  • Air resources are scheduled to resume efforts this week to support the firefighters on the ground.   
  • Low pressure overnight allowed for minimal fire behavior.
  • High pressure is forecasted, which may accelerate fire growth.
  • Boaters are still required to stop at Hancock Campsite on river left and river mile 26.1 (implemented on Aug. 6).
  • Air monitors will be installed in the river basin and adjacent communities to monitor air quality.
  • Pumps and hose lines have been installed around structures, as well as clearing around numerous inholdings in the Salmon River basin.
  • Heavy equipment continues to build a fire break along the Magruder road corridor, tying that break back into the Dixie Fire scar of 2021.
  • Crews are constructing a 26-mile indirect fire line from the Whitewater Ranch- with the goal of tying the indirect line to the Shissler Fire burn scar in order to support the long-term containment plan. 

Aug. 9 Update:

  • Additional acres burned overnight - fire reaches 24,039.
  • A containment line has been established from the Trout Creek drainage to Whitewater Ranch.
  • Forest Service support of Salmon River boaters resumed yesterday at the Hancock Campsite after a temporary suspension due to safety hazards along the river. 
  • The six assigned helicopters performed a wide range of delayed supply, reconnaissance and other operational duties after the inversion lifted late in the morning.
  • Some fire operations remain suspended along the Salmon River corridor due to mudslides and debris in the river system.  

Aug. 8 Update:

  • Unstaffed Aerial System (drone) team plan to conduct infrared operations of the Trout Creek area.
  • Mudslides and debris in the Salmon River system have suspended some river operations.
  • Crews are using point protection strategy in the fire perimeter. Point protection strategy is a wildfire response strategy, which protects specific assets or highly valued resources from the wildfire without directly halting the continued spread of the wildfire.
  • Rain fell on the fire for the third consecutive day, assisting wildland firefighter efforts - resulting in the 12% containment.

During a fire storm on July 30, one structure was lost at Yellow Pine Ranch and seven buildings were lost at Allison Ranch. Officials said the Elkhorn Fire went on a "20,000-acre run of extreme fire behavior" up the Salmon River. 

Mark Burke, friend of ranch caretakers, called the damage at Allison Ranch "tough to see." He said the caretakers, Gloria and Jim Mozingo, started working at the ranch decades ago. The couple lost their home there, two other cabins, the main lodge and several other supporting structures.

Before the fire, Burke said the ranch was "the greenest" he had ever seen it. 

He said Gloria and Jim are quite popular on the river. People rafting often stop by the ranch's museum. To help support the Mozingo's through this time, Burke organized a GoFundMe

"Their legacy is the investment they've made in the lives of many, many people through the years," Burke said. 

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