Idaho crews brace for tough day fighting blaze

Members of the Hailey Fire Department, as well as the Chubbuck Fire Department, wrapped the Greenhorn Guard Station, which served as a ranger office from 1909 to 1920, with a material to help reflect radiant heat away from the building Saturday south of Ketchum, Idaho. (Ashley Smith ~ Times News)

BOISE, Idaho -- Firefighters on Sunday braced for a second day of windy weather that has stoked a huge wildfire and forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 homes.

The blaze near the mountain town of Ketchum in central Idaho surged Saturday, when wind also grounded firefighting aircraft, but Sunday officials said no buildings had been lost and no one had been seriously injured.

The lightning-caused fire had spread across 40 square miles. The main concern Sunday was wind-blown embers that can start new fires ahead of the main blaze, said Julie Thomas, fire information officer for the Sawtooth National Forest. She said crews stationed in residential areas had put out such fires within 200 yards of buildings.

"Today is a critical day for the fire," said Thomas.

Blaine County authorities announced Sunday that most schools will be closed today and Tuesday.

Saturday's evacuation order covered residential areas ranging from mobile home parks to homes worth millions of dollars.

Thomas said fire managers would do everything possible to keep the blaze from crossing to the east side of a highway that runs north-south down the center of the Wood River Valley.

"It would be bad," Thomas said. "There are a lot of homes over there. It could go a long ways."

In California, crews fighting a huge, stubborn fire in the Santa Barbara County wilderness worked under cloudy skies Sunday and a threat of lightning that could spark a new blaze. The cooler weather and higher humidity could slow the flames but also carried the chance of lightning that could ignite dense chaparral.

"There's been some clouds and some moisture," fire spokesman Larry Griffith said. "It'll be good as long as we don't get some lightning to start another fire."

Little or no rain was predicted in Los Padres National Forest, where the fire has burned for about seven weeks.

The fire was 85 percent contained after burning 241,550 acres, or about 377 square miles of steep backcountry.