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Idaho firefighters: Not if, but when flames will rout residents

August 18, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • Fire crews battle the Taylor Bridge fire near Cle Elum, Wash.
Fire crews battle the Taylor Bridge fire near Cle Elum, Wash. (Joshua Trujillo / Associated…)

Idaho residents in the path of a wildfire prepared to evacuate Saturday as firefighters in Washington braced for thunderstorms and lightning that could make it more difficult to contain a massive blaze there.

When flames from the 83,000-acre Trinity Ride fire in Idaho fire began to singe the canyons surrounding Featherville, Id. on Saturday, firefighters held an urgent meeting with local residents.

“It’s not a question of if the fire will come down to the town,” spokesman Steve Till said. “It’s when.”

The Trinity Ridge fire is the state’s biggest fire of 2012, Till said. It remained 5% contained Saturday. Nearly 1,100 firefighters battled against  high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.

“It's a very active, very dangerous fire,” Till said. “We're prepared for it but civilians are probably much better not being here.”

Within 24 hours the fire is predicted to reach the community of Featherville, where fire crews have set up to protect about 366 residential buildings.

Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the fires multiplied.

Other fires burning in Idaho include the 138-square-mile Halstead fire burning with 3% containment in a rugged area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, according to fire data. 

In Washington state, the 36-square-mile Taylor Bridge Fire is 40% contained after it destroyed 48 homes and 15 other buildings.

Farther west in Washington, many people were returning to the south and east sides of a 35-square mile blaze near the town of Cle Elum in the Cascade Range, about 75 miles east of Seattle, according to the Associated Press.

That fire burned out of control for much of the week, destroying 70 residential properties and 210 other structures on the east side of the Cascades.

“People are finding a little bit of everything. Some homes were damaged, some homes were destroyed and some homes weren't even touched,” Fred Slyfield, emergency management specialist for Kittitas County, Wash., told the Associated Press on Saturday. 

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Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com.



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