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Small "Blue Fire" Poses Huge Problems

Blue Fire incident command photo
Dave Van Netter

In trackless terrain at the foot of the Frank Church River of No Return wilderness, a small army of firefighters is up against a nightmarish combination - a fire fed by high temperatures and wind, and very low humidity.

The Blue Fire, as they call it, is not terribly large in wildfire terms - only about 325 acres at last report Wednesday. But it's forced lots of attention from National Forest and Idaho firefighters. Nearly 300 personnel are there, along with three helicopters and water tenders.

In addition to the wind, temperature and humidity problems, firefighters must keep their heads swiveling constantly - looking down now as they cut away tinder-dry kindling, and up the next minute to be sure that a big dead snag is not about to topple over on them.

The area in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is filled with more than its share of beetle-killed sub alpine fir and lodgepole pines. That makes firefighters extremely cautious as they cut fire lines in the path of the flames.

The Blue Fire was touched off by lightning more than two weeks ago, but not discovered until smokejumpers, enroute to another blaze, saw it on June 27th.

It's only about four miles from the tiny mountain hamlet of Dixie, and is threatening dozens of homes and about 100 outbuildings.

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