Residents Allowed to Return After 80 Homes Saved From Idaho Fires

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- An evacuation order for homes near the Blackerby fire in northcentral Idaho has been lifted after crews got the upper hand on the 4,950-acre blaze that once threatened 80 residences.

''We're into a mop-up stage right now and using infrared equipment to locate any hot spots remaining,'' said Mary Fritz of the incident command team fighting the fire that began Aug. 9 southeast of Grangeville.

''Folks are feeling pretty confident now,'' she said Thursday.

No homes were lost.

About 660 firefighters were still on the scene, some crossing the South Fork of the Clearwater River in boats to complete the control line. The estimated cost of the suppression was $3.4 million.

Statewide, there were 10 fires of more than 100 acres burning Thursday, totaling more than 32,000 acres.

The Granite Complex burning on the Idaho side of Hells Canyon made up half the statewide acreage total after down-canyon winds helped spread the fire northward. Because the fire is still within federal wilderness area boundaries, it's being allowed to burn with limited suppression consisting of aerial water drops.

But fire managers were poised to step up their attack if the flames cross the wilderness area boundary into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

''We don't want to see it go north of Sheep Creek because that's where the wilderness area stops,'' said Jack Horner of the Riggins incident command station that is monitoring the fire. ''In the fire management plan, we have the option of managing wildland fire use in wilderness but not in the recreation area, so that's why we are looking at trying to keep it from spreading much farther north.''

The flames reached the unstaffed Dry Diggins fire lookout but the concrete-block tower was not damaged.

Fires totaling 2,725 acres were being allowed to burn in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness area northeast of McCall. The Arctic Point and Blackie Foster cabins on the Salmon River were wrapped with fire retardant covering.

The spread of the Long Ruggles fire 22 miles southwest of Craigmont was slowed by rain and lower temperatures. It was last estimated at 4,700 acres. About 450 firefighters were beginning to mop up the Cadagan Complex 14 miles west of North Fork in the Salmon-Challis National Forest after containing the burn to approximately 2,600 acres.

In the Nez Perce National Forest, fire crews used explosives to clear a protective line around structures 12 miles southeast of Elk City to prevent the spread of the Clear Red Complex, which was reported at 656 acres with zero containment. The China Ten Complex 15 miles east of Grangeville was holding at nearly 1,900 acres and 40 percent containment, and officials said fire activity had decreased because of increased humidity. There were 486 firefighters assigned to the China Ten.

In the Clearwater National Forest, the Devil fire 13 miles west of Lochsa was 75 percent contained at 147 acres, the Long Black Complex had burned 760 acres northeast of Pierce and was 35 percent contained and the Cedar fire 18 miles northwest of Kooskia was burning in timber after scorching 150 acres. It was 50 percent contained.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press