Zaca wildfire continues to grow

Some evacuation orders lifted; winds expected to be factor in Montana and Idaho.

BY P.J. HELLER | BOISE, Idaho | August 10, 2007

Fire managers chart evacuation plans for the Zaca fire area.
Credit: Mike Ferris, USFS

Santa Barbara resident checks Zaca fire information at kiosk.
Credit: P.J. Heller

Dry and windy conditions across Montana and Idaho on Friday were expected to test containment lines on numerous wildfires burning across the region. Meantime, more evacuation orders were lifted for residents threatened by wildfires in California and Montana.

Fourteen wildfires were burning throughout Montana and nine were reported in Idaho. In California, the stubborn Zaca fire continued to expand, growing to more than 80,000 acres by Friday night 125 square miles but firefighters kept it from moving toward mountain communities and residents in the Peachtree community were allowed to return home. State Highway 154 over San Marcos Pass was also reopened. Evacuation orders, however, remained in place for some areas.

The fire, which has been burning on the central coast since July 4, was 68 percent contained. Full containment was not expected until Sept. 7. More than 2,500 firefighters are battling the blaze on the ground and from the air, using helicopters and air tankers. The cost of fighting the fire has topped $59 million.

Fire officials also erected more kiosks across South Coast communities including Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito with information in English and Spanish to keep residents informed about the status of the fire. A staging area has also been established in Santa Barbara staffed by nearly 300 firefighters in the event the fire jumps containment lines and heads toward the cities forcing evacuations.

In Montana, red flag warnings were posted as more than a dozen wildfires continued to burn but progress was reported, as evacuation orders were lifted for about 300 homes around the Seeley Lakes resort area. Several hundred homes, however, remain evacuated due to the Jocko Lakes fire. The town of Seeley Lake has not been evacuated.

The fire, about 26 miles from Missoula, grew to 18,600 acres and remained at 10 percent containment. One home has been reported destroyed and one home and commercial building damaged.

The Chippy Creek fire remained the largest fire in Montana at more than 56,000 acres. It was burning about 42 miles southwest of Kalispell and was still 10 percent contained. About 50 homes remain evacuated and 350 residences were threatened.

Evacuations also remained in place for about three dozen homes near Darby where the Tin Cup fire was burning but the evacuation order was expected to be downgraded Saturday morning. The fire has burned more than 600 acres with containment jumping to 60 percent.

At the Ahorn fire 30 miles west of Augusta, homes remain evacuated. The fire, which started July 11, has burned more than 44,000 acres and was still 5 percent contained.

In Idaho, the East Zone Complex of three fires about 25 miles from McCall ballooned to more than 80,000 acres. The fire, burning since July 6, was threatening the communities of Secesh and Warren as well as historic sites and bridges. Evacuations were in effect.

The Cascade Complex of fires northeast of Cascade had burned nearly 35,000 acres and was 20 percent contained. That figure was about half the acreage reported one day earlier after officials split off the Landmark Complex of two fires from the total. The Landmark Complex three miles northeast of Cascade had charred more than 45,000 acres and was 29 percent contained. The town of Stibnite was threatened.

In Michigan, the Sleeper Lake fire in the Upper Peninsula had burned nearly 19,000 acres and was 25 percent contained. The blaze was about 60 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie in Luce County. The fire started Aug. 2.


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