- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - More mandatory evacuations have been ordered in northern Idaho near Kamiah and others have been told to be ready to get out as a group of fires burning timber and brush in rugged terrain expanded to more than 100 square miles Wednesday.

It’s not clear how many residences are involved or how many people have been forced from their homes. Shelters say they’re having a hard time keeping up with the number of evacuees.

The fires destroyed 42 homes earlier this week but there have been no reports of additional losses.

More than 850 firefighters are battling the blazes with the help of 56 engines, 19 dozers and four helicopters, but containment was only 25 percent as of Wednesday morning.

Firefighters got some help from overnight cooler temperatures, which helped squelch some fire activity, but the weather was expected to jump up once again Wednesday.

Fire crews are facing a tight deadline to extinguish and remove hot spots along the perimeters of the fire due to a cold front expected to hit Friday. Officials warn that yet another string of thunderstorms and lightning is possible, increasing the chances of fire starts flaring up in a region riddled with plenty of dry fire fuel.

In west-central Idaho, visitors to part of the Payette National Forest are being evacuated due to a 9-square mile fire in timber, while many others living in the area have been warned to be ready to flee.

Currently, 15 large wildfires are burning in Idaho burning nearly 600 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That doesn’t include many other smaller fires that crews are either monitoring or actively working to suppress.

The recent spike in fire activity caused the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to issue a rare statewide air quality advisory. Under the advisory, Idahoans are banned from all outdoor burning -including campfires and residential burns. Meanwhile, air quality throughout the state will change from moderate to unhealthy over the next 36 hours, with the heaviest concentration of compromised air occurring in northern Idaho.


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