The Wapiti, a new, rapidly growing fire, destroyed four cabins and one outbuilding at Grandjean on the west side of the Sawtooth Mountains last weekend, growing to 4,000 acres in its first two days and to 6,190 acres before rain and colder temperatures arrived earlier this week to check its progress.
The Wapiti Fire, located 13 miles southwest of Stanley, burned 1,200 acres its first afternoon, making crown runs and torching trees and spreading toward the northeast. It was first reported at 2:12 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25. Its cause is unknown.
The fire brought heavy smoke to Stanley and Sawtooth Valley and to Challis and Round Valley Saturday.
The Boise County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations of Sawtooth Lodge, Grandjean campground, summer homes and hiking trails on Sunday. Cabin owners and people who had to abandon campgrounds during the evacuation are urged to stay in touch with the Lowman Ranger District for updates about when they can return to the area. The number is 208-259-3361.
Sawtooth National Forest officials established a closure area that includes both sides of the Sawtooth Range west of Stanley. The closure area extends from the North Fork Baron Creek trail in the south almost to Trap Creek Campground on Idaho Highway 21 north of Stanley.
“The Forest Service campground at Stanley Lake remained open earlier. All dispersed camping in that area is prohibited. Hiking access to Alpine and Sawtooth lakes from the Iron Creek trailhead and over the Sawtooths from Sawtooth Lake to Grandjean is closed. Forest Road No. 524 from Idaho 21 to Grandjean, Sawtooth Lodge and the Wapiti Creek summer home area is also closed.
The Wapiti had zero containment earlier this week, but crews were taking advantage of the precipitation and cooler weather by building a fire line on the western flank, focusing on keeping the fire north of Forest Road 524 and the South Fork of the Payette River to protect cabins to the south.
“While we greatly appreciate this change in the weather, in just a few days we expect things to start drying out and warming up,” Lowman District Ranger John Kidd said. “There is still a lot of summer left to go and this fire will be with us a while.” Fire managers predict full containment of the fire by Oct. 1.
Taiga Rohrer’s Type 2 incident command team was ordered and arrived Sunday afternoon, and by the end of the day, 172 firefighters and support staff were on duty, fighting the fire with nine engines, two air tankers, five hand crews and one water tender. This is the same incident command team that was first on the scene to fight the Rabbit Foot Fire near Morgan Creek Summit earlier this season.