Letters From the West

NASA releases photo of giant Idaho fires

Idaho fires Aug. 10 (NASA)

Idaho fires Aug. 10 click image to enlarge(NASA)

NASA put on its website a satellite image of the fires that started Aug. 8 and have grown to more than 300,000 acres in less than a week.

John Glenn the Bureau of Land Management operations manager at the National Interagency Fire Center told me the Haines Index, which measures how how dry air conditions effect fire behavior, was at its peak of six the day the first started. The upslope south winds lined up with the topography in the area to create a chimney effect in the valleys around Anderson Ranch Reservoir. These were perfect conditions for the fires to grow rapidly.

In one day the Elk Complex was already 100,000 acres.

For all the justifiable reasons Idahoans want to see more active management to reduce the fuels in these forests, the unprecedented heat, weather conditions and dryness that generated those huge columns in the clouds six days ago overwhelmed all else. Once they form the fire creates its own weather and all bets are off.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West