Crews Contain 6,400-Acre Fire After Defending Homes, Gas Plant

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Firefighters have contained a 6,400-acre wildfire that raced past a handful of homes and a natural gas plant south of here, the Bureau of Land Management said Wednesday.

Crews were mopping up the so-called South Black fire about 14 miles southeast of Kuna.

The fire had spread quickly in swift winds Tuesday, prompting firefighters with bulldozers and area residents with tractors to dig protective fire breaks for about five homes, BLM spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto said.

Crews then lit defensive fires to burn vegetation between the fire front and the defensive lines, giving the structures and a nearby natural gas facility an extra shield when the fire moved through the area, Gardetto said.

''As far as structures go, we didn't have any problems,'' she said Wednesday. ''They had a good 50- to 100-foot fire break around them before the fire even got there.''

Fire engines, air tankers and a helicopter accompanied the dozers in battling the blaze, officials said. Investigators had not determined the precise cause of the fire, but were confident it was started by a person.

The fire's swift spread illustrates the need to be cautious in the outdoors as summer winds down, BLM spokesman Bob Narus said.

''Even though it's getting cooler the last couple of weeks, fire season's not over,'' Narus said. ''There's still a lot of dry grass out there.''

Meanwhile, the 4,100-acre Clear Red fire complex in the Nez Perce National Forest 12 miles southeast of Elk City was reportedly contained, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The blaze had threatened several private residences, commercial buildings and historic sites, and some 635 firefighters had been on the lines. Firefighting costs were estimated at $3.3 million.

The 1,850-acre China Ten fire in the Nez Perce forest also was reported almost fully contained Wednesday, as crews continued securing the perimeter and mopping up several hundred feet inside the fire lines.

Some 545 people were assigned to that fire, which was burning in heavy dead timber about 15 miles east of Grangeville. The fire had cost more than $4.1 million, and the area remained closed.

In the Clearwater National Forest, fire crews struggled to contain the 900-acre Long Black fire complex. About 50 people were fighting the $1.6 million blaze in steep, forested terrain about 38 miles northeast of Pierce. It was about 25 percent contained on Wednesday, fire center officials said.