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Fires Rage In Idaho Wilderness

July 26, 1989

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho (AP) _ Scores of reinforcements moved into central Idaho’s Gospel Hump Wilderness on Tuesday in a second day of battling two raging wilderness fires, one of which doubled in size for the second day.

Meanwhile, smoldering embers from last week’s series of dry-lightning storms sparked another blaze to the south in the Boise National Forest.

Additional manpower was added to the 340 firefighters on the Johnson Butte Fire after it broke through containment lines again Monday to sweep across grass and scattered stands of ponderosa pine, doubling in size to 1,000 acres in steep, rugged terrain.

The target for containment was pushed back two days to Saturday, and officials predicted the fire would cover 5,000 acres before it was finally reined in.

Nez Perce National Forest fire bosses also hoped to bring manpower up to as many as 300 on the smaller but more intense Cape Horn Fire, burning on 170 acres of heavier fuel in an almost inaccessible canyon about 12 miles to the east.

No private property was threatened by either fire.

Meanwhile, far to the northeast, hundreds of fires had blackened more than 2.2 million acres of forest in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Canadian officials said the flames had forced the evacuation of more than 19,000 people.

Thousands of gallons of chemical retardant were dropped by aerial tankers in an unsuccessful bid to stop the Johnson Butte blaze Monday. Flames overran a break on the northern fire line and began spreading south to the main Salmon River.

The Johnson Butte Fire grew from 1,000 to 2,000 acres on Tuesday as crews worked to establish lines of defense against the flames burning through grass and scattered stands of ponderosa pine.

″The fire moved more quickly than they estimated so they had to abandon that line,″ spokeswoman Elayne Murphy said. ″It’s just real steep, rugged terrain and inaccessible, so in order to fight this fire what they’re doing is identifying places that are accessible and digging in there.″

Ground crews, backed up by five helicopters, had three miles of fire line but had to carve six more miles.

Crews had to hike four miles just to get to the perimeter of the Cape Horn fire, and began work on a landing zone to make that blaze more accessible. Three helicopters were prepared to ferry firefighers in and out.

No containment target was set yet.

To the south, firefighters on Monday contained the 230-acre Trail Fire near Sun Valley in central Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest. The resort area was not threatened.

″What really saved us was that they already had an air tanker in the air yesterday and they diverted it to us,″ spokeswoman Barbara Todd said. ″Those four or five retardant drops helped out.″

Elsewhere in Idaho, the situation was improved from last week, when a series of storms hit western and central Idaho forests with hundreds of dry lightning strikes.

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