- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A giant blaze on the Idaho-Oregon border grew to 414 square miles Friday afternoon, scorching grassland ranchers need to feed cattle and primary habitat for a bird being considered for federal protection.

The blaze that started Monday has been recorded traveling a mile and a half in eight minutes and producing spot fires that expand to more than a square mile in 10 minutes.

“Without a doubt there’s livestock lost,” said Wyatt Prescott of the Idaho Cattle Association, noting cattle would have been spread across the area. “Some of them have the instinct to get out of the way and some don’t.”

At least 15 square miles of primary sage grouse habitat has also burned. Habitat will be a key consideration when federal officials decide if the birds need protection under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected this fall.

There have been no reports of injuries to humans. One unoccupied structure has been destroyed.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management also announced that workers on Friday started hauling hay for a herd of about 60 wild horses about 13 miles southwest of Homedale that no longer have enough unburned forage to sustain them.

One horse injured trying to escape flames has been euthanized, and officials said they were considering rounding up horses to keep in corrals near Boise until the range recovers and they can be released.

The Owyhee County Sheriff’s Office recommended residents evacuate several drainages on the southern edge of the fire, and some roads are closed to recreational visitors but locals are allowed in.

Fire spokeswoman Gina Bonaminio said more than 400 firefighters split into day and night crews are trying to contain the fire with the help of four helicopters and nearly 20 fire engines, but the fire is only 10 percent contained.

Cheatgrass is fueling the fire, Bonaminio said. A wet spring caused a bumper crop of the invasive, fire-prone species that then dried out.

“It’s a flashy fuel, so it burns quickly and moves quickly,” Bonaminio said.

In areas without cheatgrass, experts say, fires have a hard time because native plants are spread out. But cheatgrass forms a blanket that ignites everything.

Prescott said ranchers who lost grazing areas will now have to buy feed for cattle or find someplace else to graze them.

The fire has also burned down power poles, and Idaho Power crews have been working to replace them. The company on Friday didn’t have a precise number of poles destroyed or the number of residents who lost power.

Dozens of smaller fires are burning in forested areas of the state, mainly caused by lightning storms.

In northwest Idaho, mandatory evacuations were put in place Friday for areas west of the city limits of Kamiah in northwest Idaho because of a 20-square-mile fire, a TV station reported.

KREM-TV in Boise said that residents of the city of Kamiah, which has a population of about 1,300, and other surrounding areas have been told they should be packed and ready to evacuate at any time. These areas include Harrisburg East, Caribel, Tom Taha, Adams Grade, Kamiah proper, East Kamiah, Woodland Grade, Frasure Grade, Ridgewood, and Fort Misery.

Photos sent to KREM from viewers showed a home in Kamiah that the station says was burned to the ground.

In central Idaho, a 600-acre fire burning 13 miles north of Crouch in timber is the largest of three fires started in that area when lightning moved through earlier this week.

In northern Idaho, some residents in Idaho County have been warned to be ready to evacuate due to fires that have consumed about 6 square miles.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has also issued a statement warning residents from the southwest to the north to take precautions due to potential bad air quality because of all the fires.

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