- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

IDAHO CITY, Idaho (AP) - A wildfire burning in rugged terrain in southwest Idaho doubled to 14 square miles on Wednesday, and officials closed a state highway in an attempt to use it as a firebreak.

About 23 miles of State Highway 21 are closed from north of Idaho City to south of Lowman as firefighters remove trees and brush to reduce the potential for the fire to cross the road. “We’re going to make a stand against the fire there,” fire spokeswoman Rae Brooks said.

The highway is well-traveled route from southwest Idaho to vacation areas in central Idaho. Officials gave no timeline for when it will reopen.

“We don’t know what the fire is going to do, and we don’t know how successful we’ll be with our stand there,” Brooks said.

About 900 firefighters backed by 10 helicopters are fighting the blaze that’s burning in timber. About 35 campers have been evacuated, and 10 structures are threatened.



It’s not clear what the structures are, but at least some are yurts for campers. Officials also expanded a closure in the Boise National Forest.

Two drone incursions have occurred at the wildfire, one on Friday and another on Tuesday, Brooks said. Officials didn’t know about the drone on Friday until later so it didn’t shut down air operations, she said.

Firefighters called law enforcement officials after spotting the drone Tuesday, Brooks said.

Boise County Sheriff Jim Kaczmarek said he and a deputy and a local police chief searched the area but couldn’t find the drone operator. “I looked all around trying to find him,” Kaczmarek said.

Brooks said a Type 2 Incident Management Team has been managing the fire, but a more experienced Type 1 team has arrived. It’s not yet clear if the Type 1 team will take over or if the two teams will split management of the fire, she said.

Firefighters have made good progress on southern and southwestern portion of the fire that’s 33 percent contained, Brooks said. Trying to halt its eastward progress at State Highway 21 would prevent it from moving into more rugged terrain where it would be difficult to fight.

“There aren’t a lot of places to stop it,” Brooks said. The highway “is a good place to try to halt its progress, and that’s why we’re making a big effort there.”

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