Woodhead Fire

The Woodhead Fire east of Hells Canyon in Idaho has grown to 110 square miles. Overall, Idaho has had a relatively light wildfire season so far.

The Woodhead Fire, burning to the east of Hells Canyon in Idaho, stood at 40,259 acres and 14% contained Sept. 11 as it continued to grow.

“The primary focus now with the limited resources we have is along the (Idaho) Highway 71 corridor,” said Jim Mackensen, the fire’s public information officer. Most structures lie along the highway or connecting roads.

“And we are helping power companies get lines back up” by maintaining safety for utility workers, he said.

“We are trying to get things buttoned up all the way up the 71 corridor toward the (Brownlee) reservoir,” Mackensen said. Progress will be slower in areas with heavier timber and steeper terrain.

Payette National Forest officials said in a Sept. 11 social media post that the 12,000-acre increase from a day earlier was mostly due to more accurate mapping, though the fire spread Sept. 10 after a smoke inversion.

Mackensen said the smoke had been too heavy for GPS-enabled flights. Smoke inversions act like a lid, keeping smoke from escaping and reducing temperatures. But heat from underneath the inversion, or from the sun above, eventually “allows heat to suddenly ventilate. That’s when we can get an increase in fire behavior.”

An incident report Sept. 11 said warming continued as clear skies and light wind returned. Relative humidity remained low, 10-16%, in recent afternoons. Officials anticipated more warming and drying over the Sept. 11-13 weekend, including increasing winds Sept. 13.

Firefighters helped limit the fire’s movement to the south Sept. 11. Minimal movement north along Idaho 71 reflected suppression efforts and sparser fuels. Managers expected the fire to keep burning actively on east and west flanks.

Crews worked to assess and protect structures in threatened subdivisions, to check the fire’s spread on the west side of the highway and to keep securing line on south and east flanks, the Sept. 11 incident update said.

Four fire crews, four helicopters, 11 engines and two dozers were assigned to the fire as of Sept. 11. Personnel totaled 188. An area closure was in effect on the Payette National Forest, and Idaho 71 was closed from Cambridge to the Oregon border.

The fire started at about 2:30 p.m. Sept. 7 and quickly spread in high winds. Its cause remains under investigation.

The Woodhead Fire Sept. 15 stood at 79,334 acres and 38% contained.

Also in Idaho Sept. 15, the north-central region’s Sunnyside Complex stood at 4,458 acres and 80% contained; the northern panhandle’s Bernard Fire was 880 acres and 20% contained while the Hunter 2 Fire as of Sept. 14 was fully contained at 740 acres. The southwest region’s Buck Fire on Sept. 15 totaled 12,049 acres and 6% contained.

On Sept. 15 in central Idaho, the Shissler Fire totaled 6,000 acres and 21% contained. The Porphyry Fire, uncontained in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, totaled 9,570 acres. In the southwest region, the Grouse Fire stood at 3,922 acres and 8% contained.

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