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Idaho's largest wildfire of 2022 started with unattended campfire, investigators say

The fire northwest of Salmon started July 17, and has burned more than 203 square miles.

LEMHI COUNTY, Idaho — What is currently Idaho's largest wildfire was caused by an unextinguished, unattended campfire, investigators with the U.S. Forest Service have determined.

The Moose Fire has burned 130,110 acres -- about 203 square miles -- since July 17. It started on a bank along the Salmon River near Little Moose Creek and spread from grass and shrubs to timber in higher elevations on the Salmon-Challis National Forest about 5.6 miles west of North Fork in Lemhi County. The fire was 51% contained as of Thursday, Sept. 29. The acreage has not increased for several days. More than 500 personnel are assigned to the fire.

The area where the fire started was on a small flat commonly used as a dispersed camping area. It started on a Sunday during a busy weekend on the Salmon River corridor, during a period of high temperatures, low humidity, and winds estimated at about 30 mph. Investigators with the U.S. Forest Service and local law enforcement conducted "numerous interviews along with forensic processing of the origin area," Forest Service officials said.

Investigators believe the fire may have been left smoldering in a rock fire ring the night before the wildfire was discovered. Now, they're asking for the public's help to identify anyone who may have been at the camping area from the afternoon of Saturday, July 16, to the morning of Sunday, July 17. Anyone who believes they have information about the start of the fire is asked to send an email with details and contact information to SM.FS.2022MooseTip@usda.gov.

A community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Idaho Fish and Game office in Salmon. It will be recorded and posted on the Salmon-Challis National Forest Facebook page.

With continued warm, dry conditions expected through the upcoming weekend, and with several wildfires still burning in Idaho, forest officials remind people to be careful with all potential sources of wildfire ignition.

  • Be mindful of parking cars or trucks in flammable vegetation; take care with the use and disposal of cigarettes.
  • Secure items on trailers and truck beds, including chains and other metal objects.
  • Always drown and thoroughly stir campfires -- make sure they're dead out -- before leaving the area.

Also, Stage 1 fire restrictions remain in effect on all federal, state and private forest land and rangeland in east-central Idaho, the region where the Moose Fire is burning. Those restrictions end immediately after midnight on Thursday, Sept. 29.

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