Posted: Sep 14, 2012 11:18 AM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Sep 14, 2012 3:52 PM
NORTH FORK, ID- Smoke is so thick from the Mustang Complex Fire that authorities resorted to using pilot cars to escort traffic south of Lost Trail Pass.
The fire, which held nearly steady overnight at just over 297,000 acres, is burning close to the U.S. Highway 93 corridor between the Montana-Idaho border and the small community of North Fork on the Salmon River.
At one point Thursday night, Idaho Department of Transportation actually closed the road to through traffic, requiring the pilot cars for safety in the darkness and smoke.
Idaho authorities say they're monitoring visibility and smoke conditions along the main highway closely, and may even order closures if necessary. They're recommending people avoid unnecessary travel along Highway 93, and be aware of firefighting equipment and crews along the road.
Firefighters were bracing themselves for a change in weather conditions afternoon. While the inversion is expected to lift, clearing some of the smoke by early afternoon, that's also expected to mean an increase in fire activity. Fire crews were planning a burnout operation to get rid of unburned vegetation between the edge of the fire and Highway 93 in the Hughes Creek and Hull Creek areas in Idaho today.
On the Montana side of the fire, crews report the fire wasn't very active in the cooler weather on the upper reaches of the West Fork of the Bitterroot. Work continues there to tie fireline on Johnson Creek into the area of the Chrandal Creek Fire, which already burned earlier this summer.
(USFS photo by Annette Girjalva Disert)