- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

IDAHO CITY, Idaho (AP) - A southwest Idaho wildfire burning timber in rugged terrain and pushed by winds grew to 60 square miles on Monday as drones again interfered and a firefighter had to be treated at a Boise hospital for burns.

The fire also destroyed a popular backcountry yurt operated by Idaho Parks and Recreation on the Boise National Forest.

Officials say temperatures in the 90s combined with wind and low humidity caused the blaze being fought by 1,300 firefighters to expand 17 square miles on Sunday.

The fire has been sending out embers and igniting new fires as it moves ahead, a situation dangerous for firefighters who were forced to abandon several fire lines over the weekend, fire spokesman Jerry Rohnert said.

“Because the forest is pretty dry up there, if the wind comes up and hits it, it can throw sparks quite a ways,” he said. “You don’t want to get in front of the head of the fire.”

Also over the weekend, a firefighter spilled fuel on his arm that ignited. He’s recuperating at his parents’ home in Boise, Rohnert said.

On Sunday for the second consecutive day, a drone sighting grounded aircraft for about 45 minutes. The grounding took place at a critical time in the afternoon when aircraft are needed the most, Rohnert said.

State Highway 21 is closed from 6 miles north of Idaho City to south of Lowman. Firefighters are trying to prevent the fire from reaching County Highway 17, also called the Banks-Lowman Road, which is to the north of the fire, Rohnert said.

Idaho Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Jennifer Okerlund said the destroyed yurt has a replacement value of $60,000 and is insured. Yurts are round, tent-like structures with a dome roof and plastic skins, have 20-foot diameters and remain in place all year. They contain bunkbeds with room for six and a stove for cooking.

There are six yurts in the area that are booked months in advance for winter use by skiers and snowshoe users. One, called the Skyline yurt, has been destroyed by the fire, and the fate of another is unknown, Okerlund said.

The fire burned past two other yurts and left them intact, but it destroyed the outhouses, she said. Two more yurts are in areas that have so far not burned. Firefighters wrapped all the yurts in protective covering ahead of the fire, Okerlund said. The Skyline yurt will likely not be replaced before the winter season, she noted.

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