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Ross Fork Fire 64% contained, with minimal growth

The Ross Fork Fire has burned nearly 38,000 acres in the Sawtooths near Alturas Lake and Smiley Creek.

BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — After burning 37,868 acres, activity on the Ross Fork Fire has been "minimal" the past few days, Sawtooth National Forest officials said on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The fire was first spotted Aug. 14 near Smiley Creek and Alturas Lake northwest of Ketchum. A forest area closure is still in effect and Alturas Lake is still closed, but all public lands east of Highway 75 are now open, as are Pettit Lake and roads north of Cabin Creek.

Crews continue to locate and control hot spots along Alturas Lake and in the Salmon River headwaters. They're also working on hazard tree abatement and mop-up throughout the fire area. Nevada Team 3 will transition command of firefighting operations back to the local ranger district over the next few days, officials said Wednesday.

Fire officials estimate the fire will not be fully contained until Oct. 31. If conditions become drier, smoldering fuel sources could reignite and become dangerous. Those wishing to visit the forest should stay clear of locations that have been burned over and watch for weakened or falling trees and limbs, hidden stump holes, loose rock, and hot smoldering ground.

Regarding evacuations and road closures, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office announced Friday morning that all areas of the Ross Fork Fire are now in "READY" status -- or level 1, meaning residents should be alert and prepare to evacuate if conditions change.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 28, 143 personnel were assigned to the fire.

Firefighting officials are warning against flying drones in wildfire areas following two recent drone incursions on the Ross Fork Fire. Officials with the Sawtooth National Forest said Tuesday, Sept. 13 that one drone came extremely close to a helicopter while it was in flight. Firefighting aircraft typically fly just a couple hundred feet above the ground, about the same altitude as recreational drones flown by members of the general public.

Firefighting agencies sum it up this way: "If you fly, we can't." Drone incidents delay airborne fire response, posing a threat to firefighters on the ground, residents and property, and they allow wildfires to grow larger. A temporary flight restriction, prohibiting any non-firefighting aircraft, is in place for the Ross Fork Fire area.

Stage 1 fire restrictions are now in place for the Sawtooth National Forest portion of the Sawtooth North Zone.

Cooper Dean is a resident of Smiley Creek and has had to move everything important from his parent's house in that area. 

The fire already burned the two neighbor houses and part of Dean's yard. He said the community has around 100 homes with about 30 permanent residents. 

"It's really tragic," Dean said. "I mean, we're good friends with all our neighbors there."

Credit: Sawtooth National Forest
The Ross Fork fire, burning in the Sawtooth National Forest, is estimated at 35, 601 acres and is currently 2% contained, as of Saturday, Sept. 10. Fire officials believe the fire was initially caused by lightning.

In an emergency meeting, Blaine County Commissioners approved two declarations regarding the Ross Fork Fire. 

The commissioners unanimously approved a declaration of disaster, and declaration of spending authorization up to $100,000 with weekly spending updates.

Federal funding via FEMA has been authorized to support firefighting efforts in response to Idaho’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG). This is the second FMAG declared in 2022 to fight Idaho wildfires. The other grant was authorized in August for the Four Corners Fire west of Cascade.

With the FMAG funds approved, FEMA will support funding: field camps, firefighter mobilization and demobilization activities, tools, materials, and supplies. However, the funding does not provide assistance to individual homes, business owners, or other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.

For the most up to date road closure information, CLICK HERE.

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