Central Idaho man charged with starting large wildfire
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A central Idaho man authorities say started a wildfire by shooting exploding targets is facing charges and could ultimately have to pay the cost of fighting the fire that grew to 89 square miles (230 kilometers) on Friday.
Blaine County prosecutors on Thursday charged 35-year-old Ryan Jensen of Bellevue with a misdemeanor under an Idaho law that involves malicious injuries to property.
Online court records did not list a lawyer for Jensen, prosecutors did not return a telephone message inquiring if he has a lawyer and efforts to find a contact number or contact him through social media were unsuccessful.
Nearly 500 firefighters are fighting the so-called Sharps Fire about 6 miles (10 kilometers) east of the small city of Bellevue. Fire spokeswoman Mary Cernicek said firefighting costs on Friday rose to $2 million. The fire started on July 29 and has been burning timber, grass and brush.
Multiple aircraft were fighting the blaze while crews on the ground used 31 fire engines and four bulldozers. Officials said Friday would be a tough firefighting day with winds up to 30 mph (50 kph), with dry thunderstorms expected.
“These are dryer than normal, so the humidity is low,” she said.
Residents on the east side of Highway 75 have been told to be ready to evacuate if needed. The fire is 29 percent contained and officials do not expect to have it fully contained until Aug. 12.
Cernicek said crews are trying to prevent the fire from spreading north toward the small community of Triumph. She said no structures have been destroyed and no firefighters have been injured.
In west-central Idaho, the so-called Mesa Fire burning in timber, grass and brush grew to 52 square miles (135 square kilometers). More than 500 firefighters are at that human-caused blaze that started on July 26 and is burning near the small community of Council.
Fire officials said high winds will make firefighting more difficult but cooler temperatures on Friday could help. Some area residents have been told to be ready to evacuate.
The fire is 35 percent contained, with officials predicting full containment by Aug. 15.
Also in west-central Idaho, the so-called Rattlesnake Creek Fire burning timber and grass is at 6 square miles (16 square kilometers). Another human-caused blaze, the fire is near the small town of Pollock. Some areas of the Payette National Forest and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are closed because of the fire.