Mustang fire breaches the U.S. Highway 93 containment line!!

Will firefighters be able to prevent a new run even farther to the east?
Update 9/17. Eastward spread of fire most likely contained.

The Mustang Fire has burned at least a hundred miles now, west and east along the main fork the Salmon River in Idaho. The River contained the Fire’s southward spread, and firefighters thought that the north-south U.S. Highway 93 corridor, which is generally not forested, would probably be where they could finally stop the fires relentless eastern advance.  About a day ago, the fire burned down to the highway in places while fire crews lit backfires from U.S. 93 to climb back up the mountains westward to put blackened ground between the highway and the advancing fire. In addition the days are getting shorter and the nights colder.

Given these factors, it is an unhappy surprise for those trying to stop the fire, now 320,000 acres, that it suddenly jumped the highway a mile north of the recreation/crossroads hamlet of North Fork, Idaho. It has now burned several hundreds on the east side of the highway, as it seeks to climb back up into the dry, flammable mountains.

Inciweb reports, “Fire activity has developed on the east side of Highway 93, north of North Fork. Pending developments on the actions taken for suppression of the fire, the change to the evacuation levels along the Highway 93 corridor may be delayed.
Firefighters responded Saturday night to a fire on the east side of Highway 93, 1 mile north of North Fork. The fire is estimated to be between 200 and 250 acres. Three hot shot crews constructed firelines last night and numerous engines responded. investigators are determining whether this is a new start or a spot from the main fire.”

Meanwhile the Bitterroot Valley to the north in Montana is chocking on thick smoke from the Mustang Fire and even more from the Sawtooth Fire in the Bitterroot Mountains immediately west of Hamilton, Montana. About 12 fires further to the west, deep in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, contribute still more smoke to the miasma.

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Update morning 9/17/12. Inciweb reports that firefighters are “cautiously optimistic” that the spread of the Mustang Fire to the east side of U.S. Highway 93 has been halted.  A total of 157 acres burned east of Highway 93.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan