Crews Making Progress on Idaho Wildfires

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Fire crews are making progress toward containing two large wildfires in northcentral Idaho.

The Blackerby Fire, which had threatened 80 Grangeville-area homes since last week, was estimated at 4,800 acres Monday and was 40 percent contained, said Shannon Downey, a spokeswoman with the Northern Rockies Type 2 fire management team.

No homes have burned, and the blaze was expected to be completely contained by Saturday, she said.

''We have control lines completed on the state-protected areas of the fire, west of the South Fork of the Clearwater River,'' Downey said. ''That whole west and northwest flank is in a patrol and mop-up stage now. There's no question that the threat is lessening, but we don't want to give people a false sense of confidence.''

Fire crews were still being vexed by flames on the southwest flank, at Earthquake Creek and on the ridge above Earthquake Basin, Downey said.

''If we can hold it through Wednesday, I think we'll feel pretty good,'' she said.

The Long-Ruggles Fire, burning in timber 22 miles southwest of Craigmont, remained at about 4,400 acres as firefighters digging fire lines to protect six ranch homes boosted containment to 40 percent.

''We're working on strengthening the lines, starting some mop-up,'' said Jen Chase, a fire information officer at the Nez Perce National Forest command post. ''We're at that phase in the fire where things are looking good, and we're cautiously optimistic.''

Dozens of other wildfires, both small and large, were burning from the Seven Devils Wilderness near the Snake River Canyon on the Idaho-Oregon border to where the Continental Divide separates the state from Montana.

The state has been spared large-scale destruction of private property or homes.

The Granite Fire Complex, near the Seven Devils Mountains in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest along the Snake River, had torched about 12,000 acres by Monday, though fire managers were managing it to accomplish resource objectives such as habitat restoration and reducing fuels that could lead to potentially catastrophic fires.

The McCaffee Cabin, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was spared destruction after workers wrapped it in protective material and doused the grounds with water, the Forest Service said.

In the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to the southwest, fire crews were evaluating and managing 13 wildland fires, digging fire lines in some cases on the wilderness boundary to keep the flames inside the 2.4-million-acre preserve.

''The fires are being monitored daily through aerial observation,'' according to a news release from the Payette National Forest.

In the Salmon-Challis National Forest near the Idaho-Montana border, about a dozen fires burned. The Cadagan Complex Fire, 14 miles west of North Fork, remained at 2,400 acres and was about 50 percent contained, as 550 firefighters got assistance from eight helicopters.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press