Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Halstead Update Archives

NOTE: For the sake of expediency, we shifted the entire original article over here to this new "archive" article.  At the moment, the first couple of day's content are duplicated between articles.  Eventually, this article will only contain updates older than two days.
Update @ 12:15 pm 9/1/12) Halstead Fire Info Staff posted a couple of night photos taken last night by PIO Tara Ross.  Here is the text that appeared under this photo.  A topo map of the area is blow the photo. The "X" marks the Blind Creek area you see in the photo.

"This fire backing down the hillside in the area of Blind Creek off Yankee Fork road is doing exactly what they need it to do. The low intensity backing fire on the evening of 8/31 will help crews to keep to fire in check in that area. "

(Update @ 11:25 am 9/1/12)  Halstead Fire Info Staff put together a nice update to start the month of September.  We love the first words of their opening line, "The fire had a mellow day..."  The fire added 'only about 900 acres' and now totals 124, 892 acres.  Although 900 acres is a lot, it's a refreshing change from the four digit totals we have been reading for days.

The biggest news in this morning's report is that "There was no spotting across the Yankee Fork Road or across the Salmon River."  We can almost hear a collective sigh of relief as this news echoes acrosss Sawtooth Country.

The fire perimeter is estimated to be 242 miles of which only 7% remains contained.  There are 544 personnel, including 6 hand crews, 33 engines and 7 helicopters.  There are still four Type 1 helicopters serving the fire.  The others are Type 3 craft.

It seems that the "hard closure" is still in effect on the Yankee Fork Road.  The "hard closure" means that if any of the residents leave the area they will not be allowed back in.

Below are is the text narrative from this morning's InciWeb site:

" What Happened Yesterday: The fire had a mellow day and grew only about 900 acres yesterday. There are 242 miles of perimeter of burned area. The fire was still hung up in Marsh Creek on the west side of the fire which means it was still burning, but not advancing too quickly towards the creek. The fire north of Vanity Lakes is established in the Silver Creek area. Firefighters turned on the sprinklers that they put around the Seafoam Guard Station and wet down the area around that structure to protect it from the advancing fire. A spot fire was discovered over Pinyon Peak Ridge and is in alignment to burn towards Lost Packer Mine. There is a canyon of trees leading up to the mine so firefighters used a sprinkler system around the mine as well. With the help of firefighters using some firing techniques, the fire burned the upper two-thirds of the slope above Highway 75 which makes it safer and lessens the chance of fire coming down to the roadway. There was no spotting across the Yankee Fork Road or across the Salmon River. The fire in Lightning Creek is still burning into the old 2006 Potato Fire burn area. Firefighters also worked around the Stanley Creek Road area and have established line around the Doc Day cabin.

The Plan for Today: The firefighters will work today to keep the west side of the fire from crossing west of Marsh Creek. It has reached the creek in a few spots and the plan is to use the creek as a natural barrier to hold it. Firefighters will go in to the Lost Packer Mine area this morning and recharge the sprinkler system and fill the pumps with gasoline so the sprinklers can operate throughout the day. Firefighters will also monitor the fire in the Ibex and Lightning Creek drainage and make sure it doesn't go around the 2006 Potato fire burn area into other stringers of unburned fuel. Firefighters will also be working in the Harden Creek and the Sunbeam area to keep the fire from crossing the roadways. Firefighters will continue working along Stanley Creek and around the Doc Day cabin to tie into established fire lines and roadways and ultimately tie into Anderson Creek."

---end of 11:25 am update---
(Update @ 8:10 am 9/1/12)  As of 8 am on September 1st, Highway 75 is OPEN with NO pilot car and NO restrictions. (From InciWeb).  Drivers are cautioned that fire crews and helicopters may be working in the area.

This is good news for drivers, of course, but even better news for Stanley & Sawtooth Country since it means there appears to be no threat to the power lines at this time.  If they are letting traffic flow unescorted through the previous closure zone, it's highly unlikely there is any imminent danger to the power lines.

We called the CCSO and the dispatcher said she didn't know if the lifting of the Hwy 75 closure affected the  hard closure on the Yankee Fork Road.  She said she hadn't heard anything and said to check back later.
---end of update---

(Update @ 6:10 am 9/01/12) Overnight data shows Cape Horn received five one-hundredths inch of rain and Pinyon Peak two one-hundredths.  A Stanley resident posted on Facebook about 10 pm last night that is was "pouring rain." but the Stanley weather data site did not show any precipitation received. This is typical behavior with scattered thunderstorms.  One area may get dumped on while another nearby area may remain dry.  It is not known if any rain fell on key Halstead Fire areas.  Chances for thunderstorms in Sawtooth Country today are less than yesterday.  A drying trend is forecast is next week is progged to be dry with above normal temperatures.  The NWS make no specific wind forecast in this morning's discussion.
---end of 6:10 am update---
(Update @ 5:55 am 9/1/12) Halstead Fire Info posted up the photos below last night after we logged off early for the evening.  Theywere taken by Craig Daughtry and show the fire as seen from Yankee Fork Rd near SunBeam on 8/30.

---end of 5:55 am update---

(Update @ 7:30 pm 8/31/12)  Tara Ross, one of the PIO's at Fire Info, has a knack for getting air time in a helicopter and coming back with great photos to share on the Halstead's Flickr account.  Today she posted up some photos of "The Great Wall" and especially Mount Loening which is perhaps the Alpha Peak of  "The Great Wall."  We have discussed this area in much detail in prior updates but never knew fire managers had dubbed it The Great Wall.  We can't find that terminology anywhere else so we're guessing it's a brand new label for this area.  In her photo captions, Tara has this to say, "The natural landscape around Mount Loening often referred to by fire operations as "The Great Wall" on the North Eastern flank of the fire has been a help in keeping the fire in check in that area."

The first photo below is awesome.  It's one taken by Tara of Mount Loening and posted on Flickr today.  After seeing that photo many hours ago, we've been trying to assemble some maps to help you understand the role of The Great Wall in the Grand Scheme of the Halstead Fire.  Captions are below the graphics.
 Yep, it's pretty easy to see why the fire stopped when it hit The Great Wall.  We searched far and wide online and couldn't find a better photo of Mount Loening.  What a majestic landmark!
 This is one view of how the Halstead Fire line simply can't breach The Great Wall.
 This is another view.  A = Cabin Creek Peak; B = Mount Loening and C = the Hecla Mine on the Jordan Creek Road north of Bonanza in The Land of The Yankee Fork.
Finally, here's an Acme topo map of the area.  The red line represents The Great Wall and the "X" marks Mount Loening.  Great work, Tara!  THANK YOU!

(Update @ 6:15 pm 8/31/12)  The winds are starting to lay down.  There's be no reports of fire smoke plume drama this afternoon.  We have received photos showing at least four different smoke plumes but none of them going ballistic like that have been doing lately. (We will post up those photos within the next 60-90 minutes) We've also received reports there hasn't been any real rain in the fire zone.  The NWS people have been saying today the moisture in Nevada might make its way into the Central Mountains tonight. Below are two current screen shots from NWS Doppler radar.  The top shot is from the Elko, Nevada, radar and the bottom shot is from the Pocatello radar.  (the maps overlap in the Jerome/Twin falls area) Wouldn't it be great if we got incredibly luck and one of those big cells in Nevada somehow found their way to the Halstead.  Well, there's always hope!

---end of 6:15 pm update---

(Update @ 4:50 pm 8/31/12)  We received a request late this after to make some maps showing the Yankee Fork "hard road closure" area.  We also realized it's time to post a vicinity map showing the relationship of the fire to the overall region. Comments are below each graphic and the photo.
This is a general vicinity map of the fire.  The yellow line is the area subject to the "hard closure."  The bottom, of southern point of the line would be at Sunbeam Village where the Yankee Fork Road "T's" into its intersection with Hwy 75.  A = Stanley; B = Sunbeam Village (left of the "B"); C = Redfish Lodge; and D = Challis.  (All lettering approx.)  We end the upper (north) end of the yellow line at the approx location of Bonanza.
In the photo above, we have a much closer look at Sunbeam VIllage.  Yesterday the fire burned to within less than a half mile of the Sunbeam Village "complex."  A portion of the fire appears to have burned down to the Yankee Fork Road.  Those of you who travel this road know the area immediately north of Highway 75 to be a steep-walled canyon.
In this graphic, Stanley is shown and the fire camp is at the "X."  A = Mormon Bend campground; "B" = Sunbeam Village and "C"= Bonanza.
Our last visit to Sunbeam Village was on August 21 about 3-4 pm. At that time the road closure barricade was located on the north end of the Sunbeam Village parking lot.  At that time, resident, mine workers and other local people were allowed to come and go.  We would presume this barricade point is much more heavily staffed today with the "hard road closure."  We received a report as many as 20 fire crew rigs were staged at the Sunbeam Village parking lot today.
During our brief August 21 trip to Sunbeam Village, the skies briefly opened up and let loose a welcome mini-pour.  We certainly hope that happens again today.  Pray for Rain.  Ironically, Sunbeam Village has been undergoing a Renaissance of sorts.  Proprietor Doug Fenn has really been doing some great things with Sunbeam Village.  He leased one of the buildings to Ketchum's Shannon Orr and she really brought the Sunbeam Village Grill back to life in a big way.  It's so very sad that everything at Sunbeam had to get shut down and now the very existence of the place hangs in the balance of fate before the fire's fickle flames.

Click here for our article on the Sunbeam Village Grill--what a great thing Shannon had going!
Click here for our short article on Suubeam Village--hang in there Doug!
Click here for our short intro article on Sunbeam
Click here for the accompanying article on Sunbeam Dam
And, finally, click here to take a look at the Yankee Fork confluence with the Salmon River.
---end of 4:50 pm update---
(Update @ 4 pm 8/31/12)  Here's a screen clip of the latest Pocatello NWS radar for eastern Idaho.  We've been watching the activity build all afternoon both on the radar and the awesome Sawtooth Camera. Click here to watch the latest 10 scene loop--it's a perfect way to see the cloud buildup over the Sawtooths.
We are currently working to process some very informative photos from our SG, Ace of Diamond Photographer.  Due to the increasing cloud cover and lack of contrast, it's unlikely we will get any late afternoon fire photos as the smoke blends into the clouds and is very difficult to see.
---end of 4 pm update---

(Update @ 1:50 pm 8/31/12) Custer County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Deputies are going house-to-house in the Yankee Fork drainage this afternoon advising residents to evacuate the area.  We spoke with the CCSO to confirm this report.  Our CCSO source said the Office cannot issue mandatory evacuations.  They can only advise people to leave because the fire has reached the Yankee Fork drainage.  It is not known at this time how many residents have been contacted or how many have left.  At least one household of the area has so far decided to stay put.  Deputies are also notifying residents that a "hard road closure" will now be in effect on the Yankee Fork Road.  That means if residents leave, they will not be allowed to go back until the area has been determined safe for entry.  With a hard road closure, no one except fire crew and public safety officials are being allowed to travel the road.  As our source at the CCSO told us, "if residents choose to stay in the Yankee Fork, they are on their own."

Meanwhile, earlier this afternoon, one civilian individual did travel the Yankee Fork Road to Sunbeam and then turned right and traveled unescorted to Stanley.  This individual reportedly saw approx. 20 fire rigs at Sunbeam and perhaps another 60 staged along Highway 75 on the road to Stanley.  The crew may possibly be staged there should the fire make a run to the road and river.  (Bear in mind this is an anecdotal, unconfirmed report believed to be from a reliable, credible source.)
---end of 1:55 pm update---
(Update @ 1:20 pm 8/31/12)  As of last night's data, the Halstead Fire has cost $15.4-million.  Our last post on the first cost was Sunday when it was at $11-million.
---end of 1:20 pm update---
(Update @ 12:30 pm 8/31/12) The Google Earth KML files haven't yet been posted so we clipped the Halstead Fire infrared map to show the difference between Wednesday and Thursday fire growth in the active southeast area.  The map legend is below the two graphics.  Wednesday's IR map is on top and Thursday's is below.

(Update @ 9:35 am 8/31/12)  The InciWeb site was updated a few minutes ago--here is what they have to say this morning:

"The fire was again active on Thursday. The fire was still slowly backing and moving towards Marsh Creek area on the western side of the Halstead fire. In the Vanity Lakes area, the fire has crossed over Silver Creek. There was significant activity in that area which has been relatively calm for several days. The fire around Pinyon Peak stood up early Thrusday morning, well before noon, and produced a large column that could be seen from Stanley. The fire was also extremely hot and intense in the Lightning Creek drainage. On the east side of the fire, we saw the fire front continuing to push into the 2006 Potato fire burn area. While the vegetation changes in the old burn area, the Halstead fire front continues to be persistent and burn in that vicinity. Firefighters used aerial ignitions on Thursday to try to burn up some vegetation slowly before the main fire reached it. The fire is slowly backing into Harder Creek and there was quite a bit of smoke in that area throughout Thursday.
The fire grew more than 7000-acres Thursday. Firefighters continued working along a 2-mile line right above Highway 75 using air resources to keep fire in check. Firefighters continued burnout operations along Noho Creek so they can tie in to the roads in the area. Firefighters tried to do burnout operations along Stanley Creek Road, but the winds picked up and they had to stop those operations. The burnouts are areas are all pieces of the forest where the firefighters light the vegetation on fire and work with it so it can burn and remove the fuel from the main front of the Halstead Fire. That way, when the fire reaches those burned areas, there won't be any vegetation ant that will slow the fire down.
The Plan for Today: The firefighters will work today to keep the fire on the west side from crossing west of Marsh Creek. Firefighters will also burn around the Seafoam guard station on the northern part of the fire. In the Valley Creek area, firefighters will work to keep the fire from burning onto private land, and depending on the weather, they may have to conduct burnout operations in that vicinity. Firefighters will also have a continued presence in the Yankee Fork, Casino Creek and Sunbeam hot springs and work to keep point protection around the structures. Firefighters will be working along the Harden Creek area as they don't want the fire to get away as it starts to come out of that drainage. Firefighter's efforts along Highway 75 include keeping the fire from spotting across the roadway or across the Salmon River and becoming established on the other side. They also will be installing another heliwell at Mormon Bend. Heliwells provide a ready water resource for helicopters to dip from to use to cool the fire line in the areas the firefighters are working. Firefighters will also focus their efforts on Stanley Creek road and making an anchor point, or a spot along the fire line that is secure, meaning the fire won't be able to sneak around and burn other areas outside of the perimeter. Firefighters will be watching the Pinyon Peak area frrom the air and will insert firefighters if the fire begins to make an additional push to the northeast."

---end of 9:35 am update---
(Update @ 9:05 am 8/31/12)  What might we expect today?  Yesterday's burned acreage total was reported at 116,850.  Chances are the fire grew in several areas and we'd guess the acreage total might edge closer to 120K when reported today.  Fire personnel yesterday stood at 550, including 6 hand crews, 35 engines and 6 helicopters.  Personnel numbers have stayed mostly steady between 500-600 for many days so we wouldn't expect much change in that figure or the other numbers.  Chances are the afternoon winds will once again be a factor.

Perhaps the biggest questions (among many) looming on everyone's mind are A) Has the fire jumped the river?  B) What's happening in the Yankee Fork?  C) If the fire hasn't jumped the river, what is the danger of it doing so in the windy afternoon ahead?  D) How secure are the power lines?

On our part here at Salmon River Idaho, we're wondering what plans the NIMO team might have if the fire jumps the river.  There are no roads to speak of on the SNRA side of the Salmon River and there's a much denser stand of beetle-killed trees on those north facing slopes alongside the river.  We hope the Fire Info people attempt to address some of those questions and concerns in their InciWeb updates today.

Since the NIMO Team took over fire management August 1st, the InciWeb site's front page second paragraph has stated the same words, "The fire is under a suppression strategy. Firefighters are using a variety of strategies to manage the fire, including direct attack, indirect attack and point protection. A mix of these strategies will be used to protect values in the fire's path in a combination that provides the best chance of being successful while minimizing firefighter exposure to risk. The goal of the incident management team is to manage the Halstead Fire in such a way that there are no serious injuries or fatalities, no critical values have been adversely impacted and the public and cooperators are supportive of fire management operations."

The day before the NIMO Team took over the fire it was said to have burned 5,047 acres.  It's now over 20 times that size.  We remain curious as to how the August growth of the fire currently fits into "a suppression strategy."
---end of 9:05 am update---
(Update @ 8:25 am 8/31/12) After posting the historical perspective update below, we contacted the Salmon River Electric Co-op in Challis.  Power to Stanley & Sawtooth remain on all day yesterday.  The lines remain intact and unharmed this morning.  As one of the Operations Staff said, "Everything's the same as yesterday."  He did indicate the USFS could call at any time to request a cessation.  SREC has not yet received any communication from the USFS regarding the electrical power situation.  As we noted yesterday, the primary reason the USFS might request such a situation would be to protect fire crews and/or helicopters that might otherwise be working in close proximity to live power lines.  The lines themselves are intact, unharmed and doing their job of delivering power to Stanley & Sawtooth.
---end of 8:25 am update---
(Update @ 8:15 am 8/31/12)  We fielded a query posted last night concerning our reference to the first Halstead Fire smoke plume on Monday, July 30.  The fire was ignited by lightning on July 27th.  Here is how the fire was initially reported by Reporter Todd Adams in "The Challis Messenger" August 2nd issue. (Reprinted here verbatim in italics as it appeared on the front page of the newspaper.)

"The fire grew to 60 acres after being spotted on Friday, July 27, and Saturday norning saw 14 smokejumpers arrive on initial attack with help from three helicopters and three Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs).

At first, smokejumpers thought they could catch the fire while it was still mall and they would be able to secure the heel of the fire and establish a small safety zone.  But it continued to spot long and short distances and was active overnight into Sunday.

Sunday morning, Middle Fork Ranger Chris Grove walked the fire with smokejumpers, who said they no longer thought it was possible to slow growth at the head of the fire or that the initial suppression strategy would be successful.

The safety zone was small and route tenuous because escape by firefighters relied on helicopters, as did fire operations and logistics plus medical evacuations.  As the fire grew, so did damages and officials thought putting more people on the ground would only increase the risk.  So the incident commander, ranger, fire management officer and forest supervisor switched to a new strategy.

A NIMO (National Incident Management Organization) team took over from local officials Wednesday, August 1, with 200 personnel assigned."

Part of the first paragraph of the story stated the Halstead Fire "...blew up and rapidly spread from about 60 acres to 3,700 on Monday afternoon."  That's when we photographed the smoke column from the Stanley Ranger Station parking lot.  Prior to Monday afternoon, the Halstead Fire had not produced one of its signature blowup smoke columns.  We hope this helps clarify the reference to July 30th.
---end of 8:15 am update---

(Update @ 7:55 am 8/31/12)  After completing the update below, we put in our morning call to the Custer County Sheriff's Office (CCSO).  The dispatcher had just come on shift.  She said she was told Highway 75 was closed.  We asked whether that meant closed with a pilot car or "just closed."  She replied, "just closed."  If yesterday is any indication, the road may or may not be open during the day with a pilot car.  Although it was officially listed as "closed," one of our Stanley observers said he say traffic moving that was clearly from down river--semi-trucks loaded with rocks from the East Fork quarry.  Likewise, the clerk at Jerry's Store said a pilot car was in operation.  The bottom line right now with Hwy 75 is that you might not really know the situation until you drive up to the barricade.  It's probably not a good idea to make assumptions about the status of Hwy 75.

After we scoped out the two paved alternate routes the other night--the 625-mile route over Lolo Pass and the 250 mile route through Arco-Carey-Ketchum, we were called to task because there is a shorter route over the Trail Creek Road into the backside of Sun Valley.  We traveled that route many a time during the four summers we volunteered out at Bowery Guard Station at the south end of the East Fork Road.  It's definitely a theoretical route but one we would characterize as for "locals only."  We definitely don't think the Trail Creek hill coming down in Sun Valley is appropriate for trucks and large motorhomes.  However, that route exists for anyone who really has to get from the Sawtooth Valley back over to Round Valley and beyond.

We will periodically make inquires about Hwy 75 today.
---end of 7:55 update---
(Update @ 7:40 am 8/31/12) Today's winds might mimic yesterday's with perhaps a stray thunderstorm cell thrown into the daily weather mix.  Most of Eastern Idaho is under a Red Flag condition but the warning area does not include the Halstead Fire area.  The SW winds of the past few days have allowed fire managers to conduct burn out operations in the Cape Horn portion of the sprawling fire zone.  PIO tara Ross, Summit Fire Dept. took the aerial shots below on Tuesday.  Similar operations have been conducted during the week.  We also put in a clip fro yesterday's fire ops map showing the layout of the Cape Horn area.  We suspect the black line on the map depicts a containment line and will seek clarification of that this morning.

In the official Glossary of Wildland  Fire Terminology, "contained" and "containment" actually have identical definitions: "The status of a wildfire suppression action signifying that a control line has been completed around the fire, and any associated spot fires, which can reasonably be expected to stop the fire’s spread."

The extensive glossary is a product of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) and is located here: http://www.nwcg.gov/pms/pubs/glossary/index.htm

The Halstead has been listed a 7% contained for many days now.  We would guess that number will tick up a few points today or in the days ahead as the burn out operations are completed in various areas of the fire.

---end of 7:40 am update---

(Update @ 7:15 am 8/31/12)   Here is the latest smoke product produced yesterday by the Halstead Fire smoke specialist. Click on the graphic for a larger, more readable version.
Note: White space above is part of the graphic.
---end of 7:15 am update---
(Update @ 7:35 pm 8/30/12)  It was a month ago this morning when the Halstead Fire threw up its first truly large plume near the ignition point 18 miles from Stanley.  We happened to be camped at Sunny Gulch the night before and took the photo below from the Stanley Ranger Station parking lot looking north that afternoon.
Little did we know 30 days later we'd be sitting here glued to the computer making updates on the fire several times each day.

Little did we know that our August 9th article on the
Halstead would have thousands upon thousands of page views.

Little did we know we'd meet new Friends through Facebook and elsewhere who would become observers, photographers, writers and  commentators about the fire.

The past 30 days since we took the photo at left have been a roller coaster of riveting, saddening, frustrating, and ever captivating experiences.   When the first news of the fire hit the media in early August, one fire guy was quoted as saying "This fire won't be put out easily and it won't be put out early."  Oh, how prophetic!

As the weeks have turned into a month since the Halstead sprung to life at the head of an obscure creek not far from Cape Horn, our collective consciousness has begun to change in ways none of us perhaps even realize yet.  Perhaps we wonder to ourselves, "How will this affect the future of Salmon  and Sawtooth Country?"  Perhaps we begin to ask ourselves each day, "Will this fire ever end?"  Of course it will. All forest fires end some day.  This one will end, too.  Nobody's yet invented a fire that can burn through the winter's snows--unless it is in a cozy woodstove, of course.

We'd like to take this opportunity to put forward some positive energy about the future.  We believe Salmon & Sawtooth Country will survive this fire just as they have survived fires over many millennia--with great class and style.

We believe the people of Salmon & Sawtooth Country will rise to the challenge and beam ever brighter optimism and hospitality for all those thousands who seek their annual solace, recreation and joyous fun where the majestic mountains and righteous rivers come together to create such a special place.

Yes, it's difficult to look past the daily drumbeat of dire fire news.  It's so confusing to sort through the cacaphony of conflicting reports. It's hard to see the forest for the flaming trees.  It's tough to take as a vast chunk of Idaho's playground burns to the ground in front of our eyes.

Let's be clear here--No matter what the outcome of this wild fire is, the Fans and Friends of Salmon & Sawtooth Country will overcome and prevail.

We believe the people of Salmon & Sawtooth Country will rise from the ashes of this event with renewed vigor and dedication to this awesome place.  Yes, it's been nicked but it's not gone.  It will still be just as wonderful and beautiful as it's ever been.

The mountains will still awe, the rivers will still rush, the vistas will still enchant, the air will still be clear and sweet and the blue birds' song will still stir our hearts.

As these dark days of fire fog our spirits and hurt our hearts, we must not forget there is still and forever a special magic alive in Salmon & Sawtooth Country.  It is a magic that lives far beyond the fingers of any fire.  The magic and splendor of Salmon & Sawtooth Country cannot be dimmed by a mere smoke plume or a swath of blackened beetle-killed trees.

Let us remember these realities during today's trying times.  Let us remember that "these things, too, shall pass."  As Earth, Wind and Fire meet together to fan the flames of their eternal relationship, let us reflect on why we love this place and know that it will be just as special and just as dear as ever with the dawn of each and every new day.

Many Cheers, John Parsons, Idaho Falls
---end of 7:35 pm update---
(Update @ 5:50 pm 08/30/12) No matter where you are, a wildland fire looks different than other people see from their perspective.  Tonight, we have two views of the same fire smoke column--the top one from downtown Stanley and the bottom one from the Yankee Fork looking up.  We're guessing this is that hot spot on the southeast sector getting all blown up yet again in this afternoon's gusty winds.  Thanks SG (Stanley) and Thanks JS (Yankee Fork).
(Addendum @ 5:55 pm)  The wind gusts have become even stronger with some sites showing their strongest gusts in the past 24 hours.  It's gusting to 31 mph at Bonanza; 32 on Pinyon Peak; 24 at Spider Creek; 21 at Cape Horn and 19 at Challis.
(2nd photo added @ 6:03 pm)  The top photo is the most recent from Stanley's Ace of Diamonds Photographer, SG. The middle one was taken earlier.  The bottom one is from Yankee Fork as noted above.

---end of 5:50 pm update---

(Update @ 4:50 pm 8/30/12)  Afternoon winds have picked up once again in the Halstead vicinity. One of the Stanley data sites is gusting to 16; Cape Horn gusting to 22; Bonanza to 27; Pinyon Peak 33; and Spider Creek 23.  Once again the wind is coming out of the southwest. So far, however, no giant, singular smoke pillars are visible from Stanley.  If the past wind behavior is a clue, the wind has perhaps 2 more hours to blow so anything can happen.  So, where would be a likely place for the Halstead to take off on a run here late this afternoon?  The Google Earth screen clip below might offer a clue. (Comments below graphic.)
In the graphic above the "X" is Bonanza.  We've already discussed that peninsular in a prior update.  InciWeb site narrative have discussed concerns about the West Fork of Yankee Fork (and Yankee Fork in general) for many days. Other than the extension of that peninsula, there hasn't been much fire action or growth in this area--certainly not the explosive growth seen in the southeast sector.

The question marks scattered about this graphic represent the areas where one would begin to wonder if the fire might spread into those vicinities.  No one will know until each day's data is released.  However, the prevailing and persistent winds coming out of the southwest would tend to make one wonder if corresponding areas on the northeast of the fire might respond.  This is the area we would watch in the next couple of days (plus the highway/river corridor, of course).
---end of 4:50 pm update---
(Update @ 2:55 pm 8/30/12)  They must be real busy at Fire Info.  We asked for clarification on the pilot car situation at 9:37 am this morning and still haven't heard back from them.  Our latest report coes from a person who lives within sight of Hwy 75 as it crosses Valley Creek.  He reports, "They ARE PILOT CAR opening….. with no predetermined Schedule on 75…I am seeing rigs coming on thru...Such as Quarry Semi’s loaded with rock coming from the Quarry next to the mouth of the EAST FORK!"

Meanwhile, another of our great sources in Stanley said, "I believe they have closed the road completely, the sign outside of town says "possible shuttle car, with no schedule" The main reason is the cluster of Firefighters using the road as a base and possible escape route..."

Meanwhile, the InciWeb site received a subtle change recently and now says, "Highway 75 remains closed between Lower Stanley at mile marker 192 and Gardner Creek at mile marker 206.6 due to the Halstead Fire. This section begins approximately 1 1/2 miles east of Stanley and continues to approximately 5 miles east of Sunbeam. Travelers should check with Idaho DOT highway information for any changes. It is difficult to predict when conditions will be safe for motorists due to changing fire conditions and reduced visibility from smoke. Travelers are encouraged to find alternate routes."

It had been amended earlier today to read Elk Creek.  In fact, we received an email from the Fire Info people at 9:28 am today that said, " I know last night it said to Gardner, that was changed this morning and has been updated to Elk Creek."

That's about the size of what we have on the situation now.
---end of 2:55 pm update---

(Update @ 1:50 pm 8/3012)  OK, let's take a look at the Basin Creek blow up yesterday.  Our first Google Earth view of the overnight fire perimeter as measured by infrared data collected by NIOPS shows how the fired burned almost to the edge of the river near Mormon Bend Campground and the Basin Creek confluence.  The key to the letters is below the graphic.
A = Mormon Bend Campground; B's = sage covered, south-facing slopes; C = old 2007 burn area, scant fuel; D = Basin Creek confluence; E's = dense lodgepole forest on north facing slopes with substantial number of beetle-killed trees.

We're pretty sure that old burn area is from 2007.  My wife and I watched it burn from the campground and when it came up to the ridgeline, it stopped in its tracks.  We suspect that's what happened last night when it hit the ridge by the left red "B."  There's very little fuel on the south facing slope.  The sage there is very small due to high heat and lack of moisture.  The same goes for the area near the right red "B".  There's really not much fuel to support a big fire on those barren south-facing slopes.

Below are wider perspectives of the area using both data from the 8/30 and the 8/29 KML files.

Above is the fire perimeter after Tuesday's fire growth.  Below is the perimeter after yesterday's fire growth.
We are using two views of today's fire perimeter--one unmarked and one with letters.  It is below.
Winds are expected to continue out of the west.  There's no way to know if the fire might jump the river.  If the fire does cross over to the south side, well, then it's a whole new ball game.  If the fire doesn't cross the river and grows under the influence of westerly winds, it might grow into the area marked by the red "B".  A is yesterday's growth.  C is the 2006 Potato Fire and D is Sunbeam.  Fire crews are pretty much backed up to their last line of defense here alongside the river.  It's also possible to see from these graphics that the biggest potential threat to the power lines serving Stanley and Sawtooth Country might possibly come in the area between Basin Creek and Sunbeam.  We'd suspect that area is getting a lot of attention right now.
---end of 1:50 pm update---

(Update @ 1:30 pm 8/30/12)  Let's chat about electricity to Stanley.  There has been NO damage to the power lines serving Stanley.  None.  They are fully functional in every way.  In addition, both fire crews and SREC staff have been working to clear brush from around the power line structures.  On our trip there last week, we noticed some very good hand work had been done around the poles that hold up the lines.

The issue with any possible outage would be that fire crews and possibly helicopter support might have to work in close proximity with the lines today to better protect Hwy 75 and to try to keep the fire from jumping the river.  If such work activity is going to take place, fire managers don't want to have live power lines hanging over or near them.  Any possible outage would be to make a specific work area safe for fire crews and possible aerial support, presumably for a short period of time.

So, it's important to know that if power is interrupted that doesn't mean the power lines are damaged or inoperative.  They are definitely not.  They are 100% fully function.  Power would simply be turned off for fire crew safety while they would be working nearby.

A reader did send a note to ask how large is the SREC service area in the Stanley vicinity.  SREC's service area extends to Galena Peak on the South and Cape Horn near the other end of the Sawtooth Valley.
----end of 1:30 pm update---

(Update @ 11:35 am 8/30/12) We have just learned that there is a " very real possibility" that electric power might be interrupted to Stanley today.  The Stanley City Clerk/Treasurer Doug Plass this morning sent out the email below:

Hello Mayor, Council and Community Members,

We have been informed by the Halstead Fire Management Team that there is a very real possibility that electric power service to Stanley and the surrounding areas will be interrupted this afternoon. It is at this time impossible to predict whether an outage will occur and how long the power might be out. Although an outage would occur if the power transmission lines were threatened, a much more likely scenario is that the power would have to be cut for a period of time to protect the firefighters working in the area of the power lines. Therefore, a long outage is not terribly likely, but remains a possibility.

If we experience a long outage, the Stanley Community Building will be the best place to receive information about basic services, and I would encourage you to stop by if that were to happen.
If I receive more information, I will pass it on, but I wanted to give everyone as much time as possible to make whatever preparations that they feel are necessary.

Doug Plass
City Clerk/Treasurer
Stanley, Idaho
(208)774-2278 Fax

After receiving news of the above email, we contacted the Operations Manager Rick Leuzinger for the Salmon River Electric Cooperative (SREC)  in Challis. Leuzinger said the USFS has not yet contacted SREC today to request a cessation of power to Stanley.  He said that when the USFS calls, SREC shut down the power within one hour.  He indicated that crews were on duty to be able to respond to such a request within the one hour time period.  A SREC crew was on standby during the last weekend in case such a call was made.  Upon receipt of such a request from the USFS, SREC begins notification of those affected by the shutdown. Leuzinger had no further details at this time.

We did received a followup email from a SREC staff member stating, "Please remember this is a POSSIBLE outage. Not as is will be off, but a possible outage.  We will try to inform you as soon as we hear IF an outage will occur."
---end of 11:35 am update---

(Update @ 11:10 am 8/30/12) We called Jerry;s Store in Lower Stanley and the clerk there said there was a pilot car in operation at the time of our 11:05 am call.  We have been unable to get any additional information from Fire Info.

(10:51 am information)  The CCSO hasn't heard any details from the Forest Service but just received a report that the IDT electronic sign at the intersection of ID Hwy 75 and US Hwy 93 near Challis says the highway 75 is "closed." At this point, barring new information from the Forest Service, we would presume closed means totally closed with no pilot car transit.  We will continue to follow this situation.
---end of 11:10 am update---
(Update @ 10:45 am 8/30/12) We received a reply from Halstead Fire Info Staff.  The 3000+ acre fire run yesterday was in Basin Creek, NOT Cabin Creek.  The change has been made on the InciWeb.

Likewise, Highway 75 is closed from Lower Stanley to Elk Creek, not Gardner Creek as earlier indicated.  At this time we are uncertain as to whether a pilot car is operating between Lower Stanley and Elk Creek.  If any of our Stanley Friends have a chance to drive down to Lower Stanley to reconnoiter the situation and report back, we and our readers would greatly appreciate it.  We are also awaiting a followup reply on the pilot car situation from Fire Info Staff.
---end of 10:45 am update---
(Update @ 10:20 am 8/3012)   "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind."  A 21-year-old Bob Dylan wrote those famous lyrics 50 years ago and they ring as true today as they have for the last five decades.  The words are especially true for the Halstead Fire.  Wind and fuel are the two biggest drivers of any given wildland fire.  No fuel--not much fire, even with a wind.  Fuel and no wind?  Some fire growth but not much.  High wind and heavy fuel?  Look out, the fire could explode.

Stanley area observers of the Halstead Fire are only too familiar with the correlation between high winds and  high smoke plumes.  So, as the Hastead Fire goes, we might all once again hum, " "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind."

By now, everyone knows the Halstead Fire is going to burn until substantial rain and/or snow falls to stem the relentless flame flow across the Salmon Country landscape.  In the meantime, the Halstead's growth will be mostly driven by wind speed and direction.  Everyone knows there's more than ample fuel in the form of countless beetle-killed pine trees.  Fuel is not the issue--wind is.   "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind."

Regular readers of this continually updated article may wish to know how to understand and follow wind patterns, forecasts and meteorological commentary.  This update is devoted exclusively to that presumed need and topic.  The information posted here will also be appended to the "Halstead Links" page above to easy reference.

There are probably thousands of ways to study the wind.  We will describe only those online tools we use.
We look at these sources:  The NOAA Air Resources Laboratory modeling tools; the Pocatello NWS Regional Observations Page; the Stanley Ranger Station NWS weather data site; the Google Wind Map; and the Pocatello/Boise/Missoula NWS Forecast Discussions.  That's it.  It's a tidy tool kit for getting a grip on the wind.
Those few tools may not help us fully understand that elusive "answer" of "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind" but they are better than nothing.

NOAA's ARL is a fabulous tool.  If you've never used it, you are in for a real treat.  You can take a look at predicted wind directions and speeds both for the short and long term.  Using your computer's "Print Screen" function and a simple graphics editor, you can clip our time frames from the animated ARL maps to study in greater detail.  Below is a sample of the wind at 39,000 feet (200 millibar) for tomorrow.  You can then look  at progressively lower elevations all the way down to 5000 feet.  Below the sample graphic is a clip on how to read the little arrow-like symbols used in a NOAA/NWS wind map.  Once you get the hang of it, you can glance at such a map and understand it quickly.  The links to the resources are below the graphics.  Later today, we will put up a longer explanation of each tool on the "Halstead Links" page.  If you have any questions on how to use one or more of these tools, send us a note and we will help you individually.

NOAA Air Resources Laboratory Animations:

Pocatello NWS Weather Data Regional Observations Page:

Stanley Ranger Station Weather Site:

Google Wind Map:

Pocatello NWS Forecast Discussion

Boise NWS Forecast Discussion

Missoula NWS Forecast Discussion

---end of 10:20 8/30/12---
(Update @ 9:35 am 8/3012)  We noticed these words in the most recent InciWeb update, "Highway 75 remains closed between Lower Stanley and Gardner Creek due to the Halstead Fire. Depending on fire activity, local traffic may be permitted escorted by a pilot car. It is difficult to predict when conditions will be safe for motorists due to changing fire conditions and reduced visibility from smoke."

We called the Custer County Sheriff's Office back again to discuss the situation.  We wanted to know if the highway was open only to local traffic. The CCSO Dispatch wasn't sure whether it was only local traffic or all traffic in general. The pilot car is apparently being operated by the Forest Service itself. We we told that the pilot car operates "intermittently" depending on whether it fire managers think it is safe to do so.  It is the CCSO' understanding that the road can close completely again at any time.  Based on what we've read and what we've heard, we gather that Halstead Fire managers are in charge of calling the shots on whether the road is open or closed and/or whether a pilot can operates or doesn't.  The situation, at least as we understand it at this time, would appear to make it a rather "iffy" proposition as to whether to attempt to travel Highway 75 at this time.
---end of 9:35 am update---
(Update @ 9:20 am 8/30/12) The InciWeb site recently had an edit of the front page text.  Here it was it says, "The fire was very active on Wednesday. It continued to back down the hill towards Marsh Creek on the west side of the fire very slowly. It was aggressive and burned several acres towards the Roughneck Lookout near Vanity lakes and that kept firefighters busy. The Salmon Challis National Forest did send some of their Helitack frire crew in to Seafom lookout to work on the sprinkler system and help with protecting the guard station. The fire didn't move on the northeast side towards Diamond D ranch. The fire is slowed there due to the old Trail Fire burn area which means there is less fuel for the fire to burn. The Ibex, Cabin and Lightning Creek areas were extremely hot and active on Wednesday. The fire has fuel there and firefighters are trying to keep it from moving to the other side of Yankee Fork. On the southeast side, there was a 3000+ acre run down Basin Creek to Highway 75. This fire was driven by wind, and topography. This burn happened around 5:30pm on Wednesday. The flames, helicopters and smoke triggered a closure of Highway 75 Wednesday evening as firefighters worked to stop the fire's advance. Thursday, firefighters plan to do aerial ignitions along the dozer line in the Sunbeam area in the morning to remove vegetation from the fire."
---end of 9:20 am update---
(Update @ 6:50 am 8/30/12)  Highway 75 did open back up up last night before midnight so it was a short lived closure.  The pilot car is now operating from Milepost 206 near Gardner Creek.  Although the Custer County Sheriff's Office said last night the road was closed at Holman Creek, it is now open to unescorted two-way traffic from Gardner Creek, 8-9 miles up river from the Holman area.  The NWS 3:29 am Forecast discussion says, "GREATER CHANCES FOR THUNDERSTORMS WILL OCCUR ON FRIDAY AND A CRITICAL DAY CAN BE EXPECTED. WILL LIKELY NEED A  HEADLINE BUT WILL LET DAY SHIFT COORDINATE RELEASE WITH DISPATCH."  So, chances are that the pilot car might remain on duty for awhile as fire managers and public safety officials evaluate yesterday's fire growth and the potential for near-term developments affecting Hwy 75 travel.

Early word is that yesterday's wind-driven fire growth took place in Upper & Lower Harden Creeks.  Two map screen shots appear below the fire photos.  The two fire photos were emailed in late last night after we logged off.  They were both taken from the north side of Valley Creek looking east.  Thanks, GG, for sending these photos.

 Here are two maps of the Upper and Lower Harden Creek drainages.  A = Basin Creek Confluence; B = Upper Harden Creek; C = Lower Harden Creek and D = Yankee Fork, as seen in the Acme Map topo below.
---end of 6:50 am update---

(Update @ 10:30 pm 8/29/12)  We've been waiting with the idea InciWeb would get updated late tonight.  Sure enough, a few minutes ago, Fire Info people added this statement, "Highway 75 remains closed between Lower Stanley and Gardner Creek due to the Halstead Fire. Depending on fire activity, local traffic may be permitted escorted by a pilot car. It is difficult to predict when conditions will be safe for motorists due to changing fire conditions and reduced visibility from smoke. Travelers are encouraged to find alternate routes."

Note that the update makes mention of the pilot car thing we mentioned earlier from our conversation with the Custer County Sheriff's Office.  We truly love the statement: "Travelers are encouraged to find alternate routes."

Hum...to get from Old Sawmill Station to Stanley via an alternate route would be a drive of 250 miles.  There is the ONLY alternate route to get from Old Sawmill to Stanley!

But wait!  There's yet ANOTHER alternate route we almost forgot!  You'd go up through Salmon, Idaho and then the Lolo Pass down the Lochsa and back around that way.  Piece of cake!  Heck, it's only 625 miles via that route as shown below.  If anybody knows of some other alternate route, let us know.
On that cheery note, we're going to sign off for the night.  Thanks for reading!  John Parsons, Idaho Falls

PS--We did attempt to contact Old Sawmill several times tonight but got their answering machine.  we figure they are staying open late to accommodate the travelers who can't get upriver right now.  It will be very interesting to hear the stories of how Stanley and Old Sawmill handled the situation tonight.

(Update @ 9:45 pm 8/29/12)  An enterprising and daring Clayton Area Photographer ventured into the Halstead fire periphery this afternoon.  Tj H took the photos below about 5:30 this afternoon.

We're going to caption the photos below as best we can.  If we have interpreted wrong on any of captions, please let us know and we will change them to be more correct.
This is probably looking downriver near the Salmon River Campground up river from Mormon Bend.
This is most like looking down river from an area near the Casino Creek bridge.   The barren slope in the distance is probably near Mormon Bend Campground.
This is probably looking up Basin Creek from Highway 75.
The fire smoke plume towers over the Casino Creek residential area.
Both of the above shots are probably looking up Basin Creek from its confluence near Hwy 75.  That's a glimpse of live flame nearly hidden in the fire smoke in the lower of this photo pair.
 This one we can be pretty certain about.  It's the USFS Casino Creek Campground which is on "river right" of The Salmon River just up river from the Casino Creek bridge.  It looks like the USFS put together what's called a "heliwell" and an Erickson Sky Crane Type 1 helicopter is taking on a load of water.  Knowing that campground as we do, that's incredibly precision flying to keep those rotor blades out of the nearby lodgepole pine trees!
This is probably looking down river from an area not far down river from Lower Stanley.

(Update @ 9:15 pm 8/29/12)  Stanley's Intrepid Ace of Diamonds Reporter, SG, provided two photos of the late afternoon fire smoke plume action as seen today from Downtown Stanley.  SG is providing the best photos of the Halstead Fire as it is witnessed from Stanley.  THANK YOU, SG!

Chances are what you see in these two photos is the fire that blew up across 2000 acres yesterday.  bear in mind such speculation can change as the facts become known tomorrow but it's a reasonably safe bet as the evening draws to a close.  Chances are, it was this particular section of fire growth that closed down Highway 75.  We await the official word in tomorrow's InciWeb site update(s).

(Update @ 9:10 pm 8/29/12) The Custer County Sheriff's Office said that power has NOT been cut to Stanley.  Also the CCSO indicated they are trying to work out a Pilot Car arrangement for the closure but nothing has been finalized.
---end of 9:10 pm update---
(Update @ 9 pm 8/29/12)  We just talked to the Custer County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) in Challis.  Idaho Highway 75 is closed at Milepost 215.  For those of you who know the area, that's called "Holman Creek."  It's perhaps a mile up river from the SNRA boundary and Thompson Creek.  It's 3.5 miles up river from Old Sawmill Station.  There's a very large turn-around area at the "Holman Hairpin."  When we were thre a week ago, they had already staged the road closure barricades there at Holman.  Current reports on the IDT 511 website say the road is closed at Peach Creek.  The first report said it was closed at Gardner.  Holman is a much more logical place to close the road than either of those other two places.  We will post a Google Map of the closure shortly and make it part of this update.

Below is a screen shot of a Google Map--they are a lot quicker to make than a Google Earth map.  A Google Map is kind of Google Earth Lite.  We digress.  Anyway, the map below shows the closure area as verified a few minutes ago by the CCSO.

---end of 9 pm update---
(Update @ 8:25 pm 8/29/12)  We had to be away from the computer from 5 pm until 8:10 pm.  Looks like a lot has happened in a short time.  Highway 75 was closed at 6:30 pm.  The notice hit InciWeb about an hour ago.  Here's what they have to say, "Highway 75 has been closed as of 6:30 pm, Aug 29 due to fire activity from the Halstead Fire. The highway was closed by Idaho Department of Transportation and Idaho State Police upon recommendation by Halstead Fire managers. The highway is closed from Mile Marker 192 (Lower Stanley) to Mile Marker 206.6 (Gardner Creek). ISP and Custer County Sheriff are clearing mororists and Salmon River traffic from the closure area. The highway will remained closed until further notice."  (Copied as presented on InciWeb.)

We will start checking around and have more within the next 30 minutes.
---end of 8:25 pm update---
(Update @ 5 pm 08/29/12) As of 5 pm, here's the NWS observations map.  Looks like the winds have picked up in the late afternoon.  A = Stanley; B = Bonanza and C = Challis.
We have to leave the computer at 5 pm and will be unable to post any updates until 8:30-9 pm.
---end of 5 pm update---
(Update @ 3:30 pm 08/29/12)  It's been awhile since we took a look at the Far East of the Halstead Fire.  Everyone's eyes have been riveted on the south sector for most of the past week.  With the winds blowing out of the southwest today, one might expect some additional growth on the east side of the fire.

Below are two Google Earth Screen shots.  The top graphic is a general location key showing the entire Halstead Fire perimeter as of this morning's KML data.  The bottom graphic takes a closer look at a potion of the fire that was active yesterday.  Comments are below each graphic.
OK, let's take a general look at how the Far East is situated on the Halstead Fire's perimeter.  "A" = Stanley;  "B" = Sunbeam; "C" =Bonanza; "D" = the Diamond D Ranch; and "E" = The Far East (our unofficial label).
The area to the west of a line between D & E is rocky and barren.  The fire hasn't advanced there.  In fact, at a Challis Community meeting August 20th, Duane Archuletta said the rocky terrain and "lower fuels there caused the Halstead fire to fall flat on its face."  The area of recent growth appears to be to the right of the letter E and that's the focus of our second graphic below.
Here is the key to the lettering: "A" = West Fork of Yankee Fork; "B" = Lightning Creek; "C" = Cabin Creek; "D" = Hecla Grouse Creek (Sunbeam) Mine and "E" = Jordan Creek.  Note how the fire stretched its perimeter into a peninsula jutting out from the main fire perimeter.  It appears there may be ample fuels to the east of this area to support addition fire spread here.   It will be interesting to see how the east side of that peninsula behaves in the southwest winds today.
---end of 3:30 pm update---

(Update @ 2:45 pm 8/29/12)  The winds has ticked up a little but remain well below the forecast gust levels.  It's a different story out in the Snake River Plain.  We clipped a screen shot of the wind directions and gust speeds.  All the red letters are gust speeds.  The Halstead Fire is roughly at the red "X". Narrative continues below graphic. The real time version of the map shown below is located at:

Below are two Google Earth screen shots.  The InciWeb site was updated with today's KML data.  remember that a file dated 8/29/12 is data collected on a NIOPS overnight flight so it represents yesterday's burning.  The file is always dated one day after the fire expanded its perimeter.

The top photo is the southern edge as of August 27th's data.  That means it shows the fire perimeter that was reached on Sunday, August 26th.  As regular readers remember, that's when our intrepid Ace of Diamond Stanley Reporter, SG, first reported the small smokes to the east of Stanley.  Those smokes are represented by the small detached area of fire sitting directly above the red "A".  The "A" is the Basin Creek confluence.  Narrative continue below second graphic.

We left the original small area from the 8/27 data (8/26 burn) in to show what happened yesterday on 8/28.  We presume this is the fire that is reference in this morning's InciWeb site comment: "The small spot fire that was discovered Monday night made a 2000 acre run and went from a low surface burning fire to an extreme canopy fire that raced across the treetops as wind and topography aligned in the bug killed timber."

Our Intrepid Ace of Diamond Reporter, SG, seems to have captured the run of this fire in the photos from yesterday.  Scroll down to see the slideshow of Tuesday afternoon's burn action and look for the small smokes indicative of a "low surface burning fire" as they turn into the sudden chimney of an "extreme canopy fire."  Most excellent work, SG!  we should have some Wednesday afternoon photos from SG soon.  Stay tuned.
---end of 2:45 pm update---
(Update @ 1 pm 8/29/12)  The winds are picking up again but have not yet reached forecast speeds. Gusts in mpg as of this update range from Stanley (18); Cape Horn (17); Bonanza (14) and Pinyon Peak (32). Bear in mind the wind on Pinyon always tends to be higher--it's at 9,900 feet and there are no obstacles to slow down the wind.

Whenever there is a steady wind from any given direction, such conditions often allow fire crews to conduct burn outs near strategic potential fire control points.  Crews yesterday conducted a burn out near Cape Horn that was photographed by the air by Fire Info PIO Tara Ross, Summit Fire Dept.  The Erickson Sky Crane Type 1 helicopter augments ground crews in keeping the burn out under control.  By conducting a burn out along a roadway, fire managers hope to have a much larger fire break should the main fire begin to burn in that direction.

(Update @ 10:30 am 8/29/12)  Gusty Tuesday winds fanned the Halstead flames yesterday as the fire added another 7200 acres to the burned area.  The total now stands at 111,838 acres.  Today could be more of the same due to the well-deserved Red Flag warning.

We called and spoke directly with the NWS Staff in Pocatello a short time ago.  We were interested in their thoughts about the wind direction today.  They are of the opinion that the wind is going to continue to come out of the Southwest all day.  They do not feel there will be an sudden shift in the wind direction.  Of course, they cautioned that terrain near the Halstead can influence ground level winds and sometimes create winds blowing counter to the higher elevation prevailing winds.

We prepared two graphics below.  One is a screen clip from the Google Wind map showing this morning's winds blowing predominantly out of the Southwest.  The other is the 8/27/12 fire Google Earth fire perimeter map with today's predicted wind direction superimposed on the map.

Barring counter prevailing ground level winds, today's pattern would suggest the Halstead Fire would grow toward the east.  We will take a closer look at the eastern edge of the fire in a later update, hopefully when the latest fire perimeter data is released.

The winds are already blowing into the upper 20's here on the Snake River Plain.  Such wind speeds are expected across the Halstead Fire area by mid-day.  (InciWeb narrative appears below graphics.)

Here is the text that was added to the InciWeb site this morning:

"The fire was very active on Tuesday on all sides of the burn, growing a little more than 7200 acres. Most of that burning happened in the afternoon. Smoke columns were visible form Challis as the fire rapidly burned bug killed trees in Pinyon Creek and Bernard Creek on the north part of the fire. The small spot fire that was discovered Monday night made a 2000 acre run and went from a low surface burning fire to an extreme canopy fire that raced across the treetops as wind and topography aligned in the bug killed timber.
Firefighters took advantage of the winds out of the south and southwest Tuesday to conduct burnout operations in the Cape Horn area on the southwestern portion of the fire. Burn out operations are where firefighters light vegetation on fire strategically and help it burn in a way that it removes fuel from the fire before the fire gets there. That creates a fuel break and slows the fire down when it approaches the burned area.
Wednesday there is a Red Flag Warning in effect due to the dry cold front, gusty winds and low humidity. Firefighters will continue to work around the structures in Yankee Fork and along the Highway 75 corridor. Flaggers may be on the roadway between Lower Stanley and Sunbeam cautioning drivers of the decreased visibility due to smoke."

It's going to be a busy day for updates here.  We expect to be adding an update perhaps as often as hourly but not less than one every other hour until 5 pm.

---end of 10:30 am update---
(Update @ 6:45 am 8/29/12) More gusty wind is on tap today with peak speeds in the 25-40 mph range.  Visitors to the Pocatello NWS know there's a Red Flag warming into affect until 9 pm tonight.  What you might not know is just how extensive this Red Flag warning is.  Below is this morning's national warning map.  The Red Flag area covers a substantial portion of the entire country.  (The area shown below at its narrowest width is nearly 600 miles across and 500 miles from top to bottom, not including the Colorado and Kansas portions.)

Currently, conditions in Stanley are calm with a 5 mph wind.  It's 37 degrees and the humidity is 42 percent.  If the past is any indicator, the winds have generally tended to begin gusting around noon and continue to about 6-7 pm. Various NWS weather sites are listed in the "Halstead Links" page above.

---end of 6:45 am update--- 

(Update @ 6:45 pm 8/28/12)  The Halstead Fire has gone on at least a triple threat tear today, as least as can be seen from downtown Stanley.  Our Ace Citizen Journalist/Photographer SG sent along a steady stream of excellent pictures and reports as the fire grew in the strong winds today.  THANKS, SG!
We put SG's photos together into an album and captioned each of the photos.  The famous Kasino Club is the geographical reference point with which to attempt to get a perspective on the various fire smoke plumes.
We aren't going to speculate about what we can't see but if past fire behavior is an indicator, it's entirely possible that one or more other sectors of the Halstead blew up as well today.  We won't know until after this evening's (or tomorrow morning's) Fire Ops planning meetings.  That's one thing we learned well the other day when those mysterious smokes appears in what turned out to be upper Coal Creek.

As we were told Sunday night by PIO Tara Ross, "We are here in the information office to give out the verified facts of what we know is going on out on the fire. We are opposed to speculation because our reputation as the first and best source of accurate information requires that what leaves this office is timely and factual.  We give out the facts as we are told them and as we get them from operations."  We certainly respect and accept that statement.

OK, below is the slideshow.  Lately, the slideshow coding hasn't been working well so if it just shows up as a big chunk of white space on your screen, simply click here and you can view the photos and captions one-by-one. The 6:45 pm update ends below the slide show.
(Update @ 3:15 pm 8/28/12)  The predicted increase in winds arrived a tad bit early today.  Gusts are strong throughout the Stanley vicinity.  Both the 9,900 ft. elevation Pinyon Peak site and the 6250 ft. elev. Stanley site and the have recently gusted to 30 mph.  The wind at Stanley gusted up to 26 between noon and 1 pm.  Other area wind gusts currently reported are: Bonanza, 24; Spider Creek, 28; Cape Horn, 17;  and Challis Airport, 26 mph.  All of Custer, Blaine, Lemhi are currently under a Red Flag warning.  The graphic below appears on the current Pocatello NWS website.
At 1 pm today (top photo below) the Stanley/Sawtooth air quality was about as good as it can get.  A couple of hours later at 3 pm, it had begun to degrade somewhat (bottom webcam photo below).  The haze appearing in the 3 pm photo could well be fro the Trinity Ridge fire or another wildland fire burning to the west.

---end of 3:15 pm update---
(Update @ 1:15 pm 8/28/12)  Since the weather has created a lull in the daily drama of the Halstead Fire, we have used the opportunity to finally process our photos and information obtained during the tour of Halstead Fire Camp last Wednesday, August 22nd.  We were sparked to do so when Halstead Fire Info posted two great photos by Abby Bolt (Sequoia Nat'l Forest) of fire camp on their Flickr album.  The first photo is the administrative or ICP side of fire camp.  The second photo shows the crew side of fire camp.  The camp is split in two sections to help protect spawning salmon.  We prepared a captioned slide show of 25 photos taken last week.  Fire Information can be reached at 208-774-0011.  Their hours are 8 am -9:30 pm.  They invite members of the public to call for information about the Halstead Fire.

As of August 28th there are 607 personnel on the Halstead Fire. That figure includes 208 personnel which are overhead and administration, as well as contract engines and crews and helicopters.  It 607 figure does not include any contractors and staff for showers, food service, etc.

If it becomes difficult to read the captions or if the slide show won't load for you, simply click the link below the slideshow to see the photos one at a time.  Thanks for the great tour, Eric!
 The red "O" in the top photo is the Fire Info trailer.  The red "O" in the bottom is the food service area.

NOTE: Since we put the embed codes in for this slideshow it has been a bit balky to load.
If there's a big blank white space above for longer than a few seconds, just click the link below.
Click here is the slide show won't load or if you wish to see the photos one at a time.
---end of 1 pm update---
(Update @ 12:30 pm 8/28/12) Within the last hour we happened to find an August 25th space photo of Western fires.  The Idaho trio shows up well in this picture.  Click here to go to the website were the photo is housed.  You can click on the photo below to see the full half-meg version.
---end of 12:30 pm update---
(Update @ 9:25 am 8/28/12)  Halstead Fire Info Staff added a brief fresh report to the InciWeb site a few minutes age.  Here it is: "On Tuesday, firefighters will be patroling the Bench, New and Copper fires. These fires haven't shown any heat or smoke for several days. Firefighters will also begin working on a rehabilition plan for the vegetation and hill sides in the Bench fire area. THe favorable weather on Monday, increased humidity and cloud cover meant there was minimal fire activity on the Halstead fire compared to past days. There was very little burning or smoke in teh Vanity Summit area on the West side of teh fire. Up north, towards Pinyon Creek and Bernard Creek, the fire didn't move very much. Firefighters expect the fire to make a run and burn a stand of vegetation towards the Pinyon Peak lookout over the next few days, but the lookout itself isn't in any danger of burning. There was no movement on the northeast side of the fire by Trail Creek or Loon Creek on Monday either. Firefighters were successful getting a second holding line put in place on the southeastern side of the fire about 4 miles north of Lower Stanley. This line helped tie into the Joe's Gulch road."

(Update @ 6:30 am 8/28/12) There was nothing new posted on the Halstead InciWeb site late last night--at least that we could find--so let's check the weather this morning.  Unfortunately, the upcoming weather is not good news.  Elevated wind speeds are in the forecast for later today and tomorrow as a dry front moves through the area.  Here is what the Pocatello NWS had to say this morning in their 3:30 am Forecast Discussion:



(NWS types in All Caps.  Note that numerous weather-related links are located at the top of this website on a page entitled, "Halstead Links.")

Meanwhile the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is forecasting below normal precipitation and above normal temps in both the 6-10 and the 8-14 day time periods.  Below are the most current CPC precip forecast maps.  You can click here to check the temp forecasts: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

CPC also is forecasting above normal temps in both the one month and three month periods.

---end of 6:30 am update---
(Update @ 7:20 pm 8/27/12)  The Halstead Fire Info Staff updated their InciWeb site front page perhaps 20 minutes ago.  Here is what they have to say early this evening: "By Monday afternoon, firefighters had seen minimal fire activity compared to previous days. The fire didn't put up a large smoke column and there was limited fire spread partly due to teh cloud cover throughout the day and partly by the elevated fuel moisture from Sunday's rainfall. Firefighters monitored the Bench, Copper, and New fires from the air on Monday. The (Bench, Copper and New) fires haven't put up any smoke for the last several days. The Halstead fire was creeping along the ground to towards Marsh Creek. There was low fire activity near Roughneck Peak and the Vanity Lakes area which is on the northwestern portionof the fire. Quite a bit of the vegetation in the Ibex canyon on the eastern side of the fire burned on Sunday which put up a large column of smoke which was visible from Stanley and Challis. The fire in that area still hasn't reached Lightning Creek, but is moving that direction. It is moving more slowly as there are quite a bit of rocks mixed in with the vegetation there. The infrared flight over the fire on Sunday night detected a 100 acre spot fire East of Basin Creek near Coal Creek about 1 1/2 miles from Highway 75."
---end of 7:20 pm update---
(Update @ 4 pm 8/27/12)  Here are four Google Earth screen shots of the Halstead Fire perimeter as of the overnight NIOPS infrared data gathering flight.  Comments are below each graphic.
 This is the overall Halstead Fire perimeter.  Fire growth continues to occur along the southern edge.
 Here's a closer look at the southern edge of the fire.
And here's a tilted view of the topography of a portion of the southern edge.  "A" = Casino Creek; "B" = Mormon Bend Campground; "C" =Basin Creek Confluence; "D" = Coal Creek; "E" = new burned area in the headwater portion of the Coal Creek drainage identified in last night's infra red data gathering flight.
---end of 4 pm update---
(Update @ 10:20 am 8/27/12) Halstead Fire burned acreage now stands at 104,072.  There are 612 personnel, including 7 hand crews, 37 engines, and 6 helicopters on duty.

The Monday morning InciWeb site report on the fire states, "Firefighters will continue to monitor the Bench, Copper, and New fires today from the air as they haven't shown smoke for several days. There was a large column of smoke visible from Stanley as the Halstead fire continued to burn in the Ibex drainage and move towards Lightning Creek. After infrared flight Sunday night, a roughly 100 acre spot was found about a mile east of East Basin Creek near Coal Creek and 1 miles north of Hwy 75. Firefighters will set up for aerial ignitions near Valley Creek if weather allows. On the south and eastern side of the fire, the crews will finish installation of a heliwell (apparatus example shown in photo at left) at the Four Aces campground. Crews will continue to work with the dozer line that is south of Kelly Creek and bring the fire line down to tie in with the road at Joe's Gulch road."

The reference above to the "100 acre spot was found about a mile east of East Basin Creek near Coal Creek and 1 miles north of Hwy 75" could be the same fire smoke that raised concern and questions from Stanley observers yesterday and is shown in the slideshow below. (Thanks, SG, for the photos!)  Yesterday afternoon, we were told by a Fire Info Staff member that there were no new fires and later that "The smokes in the photos was fire activity somewhere with in the fire line."

The slideshow requires Adobe Flash so if it won't load for you click this link:

Below is the most current fire operations map for 8/27/12
---end of 10:20 am update---

(Update @ 8 am 8/27/12)  The Halstead Inciweb site was updated about 9-10 pm last night with this information: "The aircraft flew over the Bench and the Copper Fires Sunday and there was no smoke detected. Acerage was burned in the north portion of the fire near Pinyon and Bernard Creek, although it doesn't pose any threat to the guard station in that area. On the eastern side of the fire, there was still quite a bit of burning in Ibex creek, although it has not yet reached Lightening Creek. Firefighters attempted to go after the spot fire that started near Coal Creek on Saturday, and the helicopters dropped several buckets full of water on the area. By the afternoon, it had gotten too dangerous for the firefighters and they had to pull them out of the area. The fire is still hung up in the Noho Creek area north of Lower Stanley. There was quite a bit of torching trees (trees burning from the ground up) in the area of Basin Creek which put some large columns of smoke in teh air during the afternoon on Sunday. There were a few isolated showers around the fire on Sunday afternoon, but weather specialists are still working to gather data to see how much of the fire actually received any measurable percipitation. For Monday, firefighters are considering burningnorth of the line they have put in at Capehorn, if weather conditions allow. Firefighters had thought that they might be able to do some burning to remove fuel from the fire on Sunday, but the weather never cooperated to use fire as a tool in the afternoon. A few more showers are predicted over Sunday night and into Monday morning. That should increase the humidity over the fire and hopefully help slow the burning a little bit. Officials are hopeful that there won't be any visibility issues along Highway 75 on Monday but will be watching the corridor to see what precautions need to be taken."

Stanley received only a few one-hundredths of rain yesterday.  This morning, we put together all of the various useful links relevant to the Halstead Fire and related topics in a single page.  Look below the banner above and notice "Halstead Links."   We also took down an update posted here last night as it was no longer relevant to today's discussion of the Halstead Fire.
---end of 8 am update---
(Update @ 2:30 pm 8/26/12)  Shortly after 2 pm today the narrative on the InciWeb site was edited to state, "As the fire continues to burn in the dead, beetle killed trees, firefighters are hoping to spend Sunday to keep fire in Joe's gulch(about half a mile from Lower Stanley) and along the ridgetops instead of burning uphill and gaining momentum. Firefighters will continue to work to keep the fire off of Highway 75 and try to stop spot fires from becoming established throughout the day Sunday.
Starting about 1:00pm Sunday afternoon, the smoke began to move out of the Stanley area as the winds picked up. There are several columns of smoke visible form Highway 21 as the fire is begining what is known as group torching. Group torching is when the fire burns a stand of trees at once, from the ground up. Depending on if you have a continuous string of fuel or trees, after group torching begins the fire can begin making crown runs. Crown runs are when the fire burns along the tree tops and leaps from tree to tree instead of first burning along the ground."

The Halstead Fire Info Staff today posted an excellent 1.5 hour time lapse video taken just yesterday (8/25/12) from the Little Basin Butte Road. (Thanks, Fire Info Staff!) The video was produced by Hon Schlapfer of The San Juan National Forest.  Excellent work, Hon! (Note: The video shows 1.5 hours of fire behavior in one minute thirty seconds.)

(Update @ 1:30 pm 8/26/12)  The Halstead Fire cost as of Sunday was reported at $11.7-million, up from $10-million reported yesterday.  The large increase in the cost of the fire is mostly due to Friday's military air operations. Each of the four C-130 slurry bombers reportedly flew six missions and may have dropped a total of 72,000 gallons of slurry on the fire.

Burned acreage is listed at 103,149.  There are 581 personnel, including 7 hand crews, 34 engines, and 6 helicopters.  The most recent InciWeb site update states: "Today, aerial ignitions are planned to keep the fire's growth in Joe's Gulch at a moderate rate and along the ridge tops to hold the fire and maintain the integrity of the Highway 75 corridor. Crews in Cow Camp and Valley Creek will continue to monitor fire behavior and conduct burnout operations as necessary and weather conditions allow."

The last three days of infrared fire perimeter KML files were posted on InciWeb site not long ago.  We produced the map below showing the southern-most edge of the fire as of the overnight NIOPS data.  Here is the key to the lettering:  "A" = Fire Camp; "B" = Stanley; "C" = Lower Stanley; "D" = Casino Creek area; and "E" = Mormon Bend Campground; and "F" = Basin Creek confluence.  At its closest straight line distance, the edge of yesterday's burned area was about 1.5 miles from the Salmon River.  Generally, this portion of the fire's edge ranges about two or miles from the river.

Due to wind direction, fuels and other factors of fire behavior, this area of the fire has tended to be active on a day-to-day basis.

(Update @ 8:30 am 8/26/12) The Halstead InciWeb site received its first new information of the day shortly before 8:30 am Sunday.  Although the official burned acreage number has not yet been updated, the new narrative report indicates the fire grew about 3,000 acres.  Here is the latest information:

"The fire grew a little over 3000 acres Saturday to Sunday and is continuing to push south and east. The fire was putting up a lot of smoke and burning freely in the beetle killed trees in the Basin Creek area. It spotted 2-miles ahead of the fire front into Coal Creek which was two drainages over. The fire has continually spread through spotting (throwing embers into unburned areas) and as the fire reaches the ridgetops, the fire is expected to spread by roll out. Roll out is when burning logs and debris fall down hillsides and slopes and ignite the vegetation below.

The dozer line that was put in south of Kelly Creek held the fire and kept it from moving south into lower Stanley. There was a spot fire that was started by a little bit of roll out near Cow Camp which brought fire closer to the residences. Firefighters were able to jump on it right away and keep it from spreading. There were no other spot fires picked up by the infrared flight over the fire last night. As the fire continues to burn in the dead, beetle killed trees, firefighters are hoping to spend Sunday to keep fire in Joe's gulch and along the ridgetops instead of burning uphill and gaining momentum. Firefighters will continue to work to keep the fire off of Highway 75 and try to stop spot fires from becoming established throughout the day Sunday."

For those readers who may be unfamiliar with the various place names mentioned in the InciWeb reports, we will post up some map clips today to help understand the locations referenced.  In the lettered Acme map clip below we have "A"=  Kelly Creek; "B" = Noho Creek; "C" = East Basin Creek; "D" = Coal Creek; and "E" = Joe's Gulch.  Note there is more than one Kelly Creek in the Stanley vicinity.

The second map clip is from yesterday's Fire Operations map.  Cow Camp is just to the left of the "X" and Coal Creek is just to the left of the "Y."  We noted the location of Coal Creek so you can see the general distance away from the Cow Camp area.

(Update @ 7:15 pm 8/25/12)  Another late afternoon blowup today.  The photo below was taken by David Pinney from the top of the hill above Valley Creek, in Stanley about 6:20 pm today.  David is the man behind the amazing Sawtooth Camera as seen by untold tens of thousands of visitors since the Halstead Fire took off.  Even the Halstead Fire InciWeb site contains a prominent link to David's Sawtooth Camera.  It is the first place we go to know what is happening in Stanley and the Sawtooths.  We would be lost without it.  Thank You, David, for the photo.  Keep 'em coming. (Note, click on the photo for a 1.2 meg version.)
---end of 7:15 update---
(Update @ 6:15 pm 8/25/12)  The winds appear to have been blowing pretty good for the past couple of hours.  As of 6 pm, we clipped a screen shot of the NWS regional map.  The yellow "O's" are approx.  The far right "O" is Challis.  The middle is Sunbeam and the left is Stanley.  The red numbers are recent peak wind gust speeds for various key locations including: Pinyon Peak (44), Bonanza (20), Cape Horn (19) and Stanley (24). Access the real time map here: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/gmap.php?map=pih
---end of 6:15 pm update---
(Update @ 11:15 am 8/25/12)  The Halstaed Fire's KML Google Earth files have not been updated since 8/23/12.  ALl we have to work with is the online photos of the infrared maps.  The 8/23 map (bottom) and today's 8/25 map (top) are shown below.  We clipped out the active southern and southeastern portions of the fire.  You will have to look closely to compare the maps and see how the fire expanded yesterday.  If and when we obtain today's KML data we will post up a better view of the fire's growth Friday. Click on the graphics to see larger versions.

Below is a clip from this morning's fire progression map.  The reddish color indicates yesterday's fire growth.

---end of 11:15 am update---
(Update @ 10:45 am 8/25/12) The photo below by Dave Lyman showing one of the military C-130's in action yesterday was posted this morning on the Halstead Fire's excellent Flickr album.  Note the twin engine spotter plane in the upper right of the photo.
The Halstead Fire Info Staff continues to provide more frequent and informative reports on the InciWeb site.  Their latest narrative on the fire was posted shortly before 10:30 am this morning.  Here it is in italics:

"The fire grew approximately 2500 acres Friday into Saturday which pushed the total acerage to over 100,000. There was a swing-shift group of firefighters that worked in the Kelly Creek area into the night. There was about 500 acres of what firefighters call "slop over" near Forest Service Road 0653. Slop over is where a fire burns past the line or ridge that firefighters were trying to hold the fire to, and requires aggressive firefighting attention to keep the fire that spilled over that line from becoming established in a new, unburned area. The crews were able to get an anchor point or a spot where they are comfortable the fire wouldn't surpass and tied the holding line into some wet areas in the drainage. Fire Officials used additional aircraft on Friday to help with suppression efforts. Four C-130s (Millitary planes) equipped with MAFFS (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems) responded to drop retardant in specific areas of the fire so ground crews could work to keep the fire from spreading further east. These MAFFS were staged in Boise, Idaho and hold nearly 3000 gallons of retardant each. The fire is expected to be spotting (throwing embers) up to half a mile in front of the fire on Saturday. The fire has grown into the lower portion of the Potato burn from 2006 and into East Basin Creek. The windshift today, where the winds will be coming from the west, and southwest should help the firefighters in their efforts. The fire is continuing to march down the hill into the Valley Creek area, but firefighers will be there on Saturday working to hold the line. Firefighters will be using roads and all terrain vehicle trails in the area to try to chunk off the fire and keep it from having just one solid wall of flames. Flames will again be visible along Highway 21 and smoke is expected to increase in the Highway 75 corridor. There was nearly 1000 acres in Ibex Creek that burned on Friday which put up a large smoke column that was visible from Challis. It is forecast to be warmer and even lower humidity on Saturday which results in a Haines Index of 5."

The C-130 military planes are part of the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the National Guard's 153rd AW in Cheyenne, Wyo.  However, the C-130 aircraft are currently temporarily stationed (or staged) in Boise. The four MAFFS C-130's had 6 drops each over the fire yesterday and they were refilled in Boise each time.  Spotter planes were used to help the large four-engine aircraft fly a low, precision line through The Salmon River Canyon between Lower Stanley and Sunbeam.

The current cost of the Halstead Fire as of Saturday morning is $10-million, not including the cost of yesterday's military air support operations.
---end of 10:45 am update-----
(Update @ 9 am 8/25/12) Halstead Fire Info Staff posted a fresh report shortly before 9 am Saturday.  The fire's burned acreage stands at 100,401 acres. There are 549 personnel, including 7 hand crews, 33 engines, and 6 helicopters.

Here are the latest InciWeb site comments about the fire and today's weather expectations:

"There was quite a bit of activity on the southern and eastern portions of the fire. A night shift worked the fire and continued to slow the fire's progression towards Highway 75. There were four C-130's (military planes) equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) which hold nearly 3,000 gallons of retardant that worked with our 6 helicopters until the smoke became so thick in the evening that they couldn't fly any longer. The smoke along Highway 75 may become thick enough to warrant a pilot car due to poor visibility. As of Saturday morning, drivers could see approximately a half-mile down the road in the area of Casino Creek. Today crews will continue to conduct burnout operations along Kelly Creek and extend the lines to the east to contain the spot fire that occurred yesterday. Along the western edge, crews will monitor fire movement and conduct burnout operations as weather allows. On the eastern edge, crews will monitor the active fire west of Lightening Creek and take action as needed.

A weak ridge of high pressure will build over the area today resulting in slightly warmer temperatures and still very low humidity. Temperatures are forecast for the low 70's and humidity should be around 10 percent. Wind gusts will be up to 20mph and come from the west and southwest."
---end of 9 am update---

(Update @ 7:15 am 8/25/12)  Halstead Fire Info Staff updated the InciWeb site about 10 am last night, shortly after we logged off our computer.  Below in italics is what they had to say about last night's fire fighting developments:

"The fire was very active on the southeastern flank on Friday afternoon and smoke will likely be very heavy into the evening, especially along Highway 75 between Lower Stanley and Sunbeam. If visibility becomes too poor, there will likely be the need for a pilot car along that portion of the highway. The fire spread towards Casino Creek on Friday and was burning intensely near Dry Creek, East Valley Creek and in the Cow Camp area. Fire Officials requested additional aircraft on Friday to help with suppression efforts. Four C-130s (Millitary planes) equipped with MAFFS (Modular Air born Fire Fighting Systems) responded to drop retardant in specific areas of the fire so ground crews could work to keep the fire from spreading further east. MAFFS hold nearly 3000 gallons of retardant each."

(Editor's Note:  Click the link below for a US Air Force description of the MAFFS.)

"The fire was so hot and aggressive Friday that it was spotting (throwing embers) up to a quarter of a mile in front of the fire. The uptick in the fire behavior and the amount of burning that was seen on Friday had fire managers implement night operations where crews will be working the fire through the night to try to keep the spot fires from growing.
The winds are expected to shift and come from the west and southwest on Saturday; however it is forecast to be warmer and even lower humidity. This all has led to a Haines Index of 5 for the burning period on Saturday. Firefighters hope to fly over the fire Friday evening and into Saturday morning and measure the fire size with infra red technology. It is expected that the fire will be around 100,000 acres by Saturday."


Note the comment in the InciWeb site update stating, " Firefighters hope to fly over the fire Friday evening and into Saturday morning and measure the fire size with infra red technology."  The collection of infrared data is actually performed nationwide from a single location in Boise.  The Halstead Fire managers (and all other wildland fire managers across America) must wait their turn as the single-source resources are allocated by priority.  In other words, the Halstead Fire might not be flown every night by the Boise infrared operation.  Here is the link to the National Infrared Operations website: http://nirops.fs.fed.us/
A lengthy discussion of the past and present technology used to collect and interpret the infra red data is located here: http://nirops.fs.fed.us/pages/about-more
The infrared data is typically "interpreted" by a NIROPS technician and then becomes available as a map for use by fire managers.  Each map bears the NIROPS logo and notes the interpreter as shown in this example:
It is up to yet another organization--The Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group (GEOMAC) to convert the infrared data to the KML Google Earth files.  You can click here to learn more about GEOMAC: http://www.geomac.gov/index.shtml   Typically, the latest infrared map and KML file may not be available until mid-morning.  Due to the fire behavior late yesterday, it probably that infrared data was collected overnight by NIROPS.

---end of 7:15 am update---

(Update @ 9:30 pm 8/24/12)  As many as four fixed wing slurry bombers were indeed used this evening on the Halstead Fire.  We just received a return phone call from Eric Mosley, one of the Public Information Officers on the Halstead Fire Info Staff.  He did confirm that the fixed wing assets were called in from Boise.  He did not know how many missions or how much retardant they dropped.  Their missions were focused on the sage brush areas near Casino Creek and the Mormon Bend Campground area.  The fire was not advancing toward Lower Stanley.  Mosley indicated the winds today were causing the fire to "spot" ahead and the slurry was to help control the spotting.  Mosley did not know much the fire had advanced toward the river.  He said the fire had not spotted across the Salmon River and that Highway 75 was open as of this time.  Casino Creek has been under an evacuation order for some time.  Several Mark 3 water pumps and hose lines were observed near the various homes located down river from the Casino Creek bridge.  There are no further details available at this time.  We will check back with Fire Info tomorrow morning.
---end of 9:30 pm update---
(Update @ 9 pm 8/24/12)  We have received two additional reports that multi-engine fixed wing aircraft are being used in the Halstead Fire, possibly near Lower Stanley.  One report received via email quotes a neighbor, "He said: "attacking with I think 3 bombers" Guessing they are the big tankers out of the NIFC base here in Boise?"

The other report is from Mark Wilson, manager of Stanley's Riverwear as quoted from Facebook, "I saw them flying over, they're being used."

A phone call and email to the Halstead Fire Info Staff have not been returned.  In our conversation with FIO Dave Schmitt Wednesday he indicated slurry wasn't useful in beetle-killed pine but did note that it was effective in sage brush.  If the slurry is being used that might perhaps indicate the fire could be moving out of the pine forest into the sage brush that flanks the Stanley area.  We will continue to attempt to contact Fire Info until their stated closing hour of 10 pm tonight.
---end of 9 pm update---
(Update @ 8:15 pm 8/23/12) We have received two very recent reports.  Dave P. sent the photo below.  Here is what he said about it:  "Fire making a run today.  Attached pic was taken from Stanley, at the top of the hill above Valley Creek, looking north, about 6pm today.  Several air tankers making runs and dropping retardant at spots just north of Lower Stanley.  I'm not in Stanley, but got this pic and info from the neighbor." (Narrative continues below photo.)

Meanwhile, David D. told us, "No pyro cloud today.  Wind is ripping and they have the full attack going.  Slurry planes and all.  Not a good sign."

If any of our readers wish to send along reports and/or photos tonight, we will be standing by to receive and post them.  Thank You.

When we took our tour of Fire Camp Wednesday Dave Schmitt told us they were not using fire retardant (AKA: slurry).  He said that only Type 1 helicopters were being used because slurry was useless in beetle-killed lodgepole.  If indeed fire managers have brought in larger fixed wing aircraft, that would be a major new development in the Halstead Fire evolution.
---end of 8:15 pm update---
(Update @ 8 pm 8/23/12) Yellowstone Nat'l Park Tweeted the location of an awesome NOAA smoke map shown below in a screen shot.  Here's the link: http://www.firedetect.noaa.gov/viewer.htm
Who knew the NorCal and Idaho smoke went so far afield?
---end of 8 pm update---

(Update @ 6:15 pm 8/24/12) Higher elevation winds continue to gust.  The Pinyon Peak Lookout recently recorded a 33 mph gust.  Bonanza has gusted to 16 and Cape Horn to 20.  However, Stanley's surface winds appear to be much lighter with winds currently blowing in the 7-8 mph range.  A gust of 20 mph was observed between 1-2 pm.
Below is today's Halstead Fire Operations map.  Click on it for the large version and use the legend in the upper right to understand the various symbols.  Fire managers began posting this type of map only on August 21.  It is easily one of the most informative maps available on the Halstead Fire.  Due to our travel schedule we have not posted the map here until now.  Today's fire progression map is below the Fire Ops map.
Below is a great 17 second video by Tara Ross of a feller buncher in action.  Quite a few more photos and some videos have been posted to the fire's Flickr site here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/salmonchallisnf/

One thing we have been remiss about including here is the fine smoke forecasts that are now produced by the Halstead Fire Staff.  Below is the most current such report dated 8/23/12.  It includes the forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning.  Click on it to see a much larger and more readable version.

-----------------end of 6:15 pm update---------------

(Update @ 11 am 8/24/12) An up-to-the-minute understanding of weather conditions is a vital ingredient in the dynamic recipe for wildland fire management.  Virtually all large forest fires have a meteorologist on site to analyze the ever-changing ebb and flow of what's commonly called "fire weather."

The Halstead Fire is no exception.  In our Wednesday tour of fire camp, we were fortunate to meet Byron Paulson--the Halstead's go to guy for "all things fire weather."  Paulson has been serving as a fire meteorologist  for more than 20 years.  He hails from the Twin Cities area in Minnesota.

Paulson keeps in close daily contact with the federal forecaster at the Boise and Pocatello NWS offices.  He has available the same data and modeling tools used by NWS offices nationwide.  In addition, Paulson receives real time data about current conditions from several remote weather monitoring units that were put in field specifically for the Halstead Fire.  One such site is on the periphery of fire camp itself. (first photo below).  The second photo shows a remote monitoring unit set up near a fire lookout atop a high point in the Halstead vicinity.  Such remote units help understand how ridge top winds compare to valley wind speeds.
By utilizing such specialized equipment and the skilled services of Bryon Paulson, Halstead Fire managers have the up-to-the-minute information they need to keep fire personnel safe by understanding changing conditions throughout the day.

Late Friday, Paulson sent an email describing the equipment shown below and explained additional details.  He said, "The weather station in the photo is at  Pinyon Peak at at elevation of 9900 ft and it is still at that location...and has been for about 3 weeks now. It is an IRAWS which stands for Incident Automatic Weather Station.  There are about 50 of these cached in Boise and they are dispatched to be set up mainly in support of wildfires to augment permanent weather observing stations.  The weather data that these station collect is transmitted to a GOES satellite and is available from several sources including the MesoWest site.  
There are 3 IRAWS which are positioned to support the Halstead Fire...Pinyon Peak.  Spinder Creek, and Cape Horn. There are about 2200 permanent RAWS stations across the country which collect weather data which is used primarely in support of fire."
Today has the potential to be a critical "wind day" for the Halstead Fire.  Winds at the Pinyon Peak Lookout have already been gusting into the 20 mph range.  The winds are being generated by passage of a dry cold front that has put a large area of the Upper Western States under a Red Flag warning.  (Bottom graphic.)

If you wish to watch the regional wind patterns use this link:

The numbers in red on the graphic links above are wind gust speeds.  You can mouse-over any monitoring site for a little "fly out" that gives current near real-time data.
The InciWeb site narrative was updated about an hour ago.  The latest text addition is slightly different than the discussion quoted in the update below.

"There is a Red Flag warning in effect for today. A dry cold front will pass across the Halstead Fire early this morning. The weather will be cooler and dry and there will be gusty winds from the west and northwest that follow the front. The relative humidity will be low, ranging from 10-14 percent. Wind gusts today will be 20- 30 miles per hour.  The Haines Index for the day will be between a 4 and a 5.

The south end of the fire had quite a bit of activity on Thursday. Firefighters conducted a burnout operation along the Valley Creek Area, which means that the firefighters lit the vegetation on fire in a controlled setting in order to remove the fuel from the fire before it got too close to the area. Firefighters also conducted burnout operations near Kelly Creek. The Basin Creek area of the fire was very hot and active. The fire was spotting, or throwing embers ahead of the fire into unburned fuel, in the Basin Creek area but firefighters were successful in stopping those spots from becoming large and adding to the fire front. Firefighters put hose lays along the roadways in order to have water to fight the spot fires in that area. Additionally, the heavy helicopters (Type I helicopters) were busy aiding the firefighters in extinguishing the spot fires in that Basin Creek area.

There was some heat and active burning in the Pinyon Creek and Rabbit Creek area on the north flank of the fire as well. This part of the fire hadn't been as active as it was Thursday in a little while. The other area that was again putting up some decent heat was the Marsh Creek area on the west side of the fire. Firefighters are busy trying to keep the fire from spotting and holding it to the existing burned area."

(Update @ 9 am, 8/24/12)  This morning's InciWeb site report puts the fire's burned acreage at 97,744 up from 94,044 yesterday.  Containment ticked up to 7% from 5%.  There are 483 personnel on the fire, including 10 hand crews, 34 engines, 6 helicopters and an unspecified number of dozers, feller bunchers and skidders.

 Fire managers expect ridge top winds of 15-20 mph today with gusts up to 30 mph and valley winds 6-10 mph with gusts up to 22 mph in the afternoon.

This morning's InciWeb site update states, "Yesterday, the most active portion of the fire was along the south and southwest edges. Crews continued burnout efforts in Kelly Creek. Skidders and feller bunchers continued to improve and extend dozer lines on the southeast side while crews cleaned up hazard trees and patrolled existing edges. Today, crews will conduct the burnout operations in Valley Creek to the west. Crews will watch for spot fires in the areas adjacent to the burnout area as they extend the burnout operations into lower Kelly Creek. Dozers, skidders and feller bunchers will continue to improve and extend the fire line south of East Basin Creek."
(Update @ 6:30 pm 8/23/12) We have been looking through the Halstead Fire's awesome Flickr album.  PIO Tara Ross really took some great photos yesterday in the Kelly Creek area.  We became curious as to where Kelly Creek lies and produced a couple of reference maps shown below.  One is a Google Earth view and the other is a USGS topo courtesy of Acme Maps. On both maps "A" is Kelly Creek; "B" is Basin Creek; and "C" is the Basin Creek confluence with the Salmon River.  Note that the topo shows a campground at Basin Creek.  It was removed by the SNRA several years ago in order to restore wetland habitat along Basin Creek.  Our 'landmark lettering' shown on the topo and the Google Earth screen shot is in the area shown in photos taken yesterday by Tara Ross.
Click here to see yesterday's photos from the Kelly Creek backburn operation.

--------------------end of most recent update---------
(Update @ 5 pm 8/23/12)  The afternoon winds have been gusting to 16-17 mph since sometime after 1 pm today.  Wind speeds might be even higher along the ridge tops in the Halstead Fire zone.  The KML Google Earth data files returned to the InciWeb site after a 3 day hiatus.  Below are the two relevant screen shots from the data.  The first is the overall fire boundary as of the infrared data recorded overnight.  Red "A" is Stanley, "B" is Sunbeam and "C" is Bonanza.

In the second photo, we zoomed in on to southern portion of the fire.  The closest area of the fire to Stanley is more than five miles.  The closest areas of the fire to the river are slightly more than three miles.  Both distances are as of the overnight infrared data released today. (Narrative continues below both photos.)

In other news, fire information officials fixed the Flickr link on the InciWeb site and you can now click right into a very awesome photo album that has seen extensive additions today.

Here's the Halstead Fire Flickr album link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/salmonchallisnf

Summit Fire Dept. Public Information Officer Tara Ross took some really great photos yesterday of a burnout operation on Kelly Creek.  The photo below is a sample of the many great photos my Ms. Ross.  The firefighter (most likely a member of Alaska's Midnight Sun Hot Shot crew) is using a drip torch to help ignite dead and downed lodgepole pine while another portion of the backburn flames nearby. (See Note below photo.)
(NOTE: We are back in Idaho Falls as 5 pm Thursday so we will be able to post more frequent updates.)
(Update @ 12:15 pm 8/23/12) The Halstead Fire grew to 96,235 burned acres yesterday, a gain from 94,044 reported the day before.  There are 453 personnel, including 2 hand crews, 34 engines, and 6 helicopters and an unknown number of dozers, skidders and feller bunchers on the fire.  This morning's InciWeb site reports, "Yesterday, the fire was most active on the north side near Ruffneck Peak and Pinyon Peak and on west side near Valley Creek and Basin Butte. Crews continued burnout activities from Kelly Creek to 031 Road. Skidders and feller bunchers worked to improve dozer lines on the southeast side.  Today, crews will extend the burnout in Valley Creek to the west. Hotshot crews will watch for spot fires in the areas adjacent to the burnout area. Dozers, skidders and feller bunchers will continue fire line construction south of East Basin Creek between Yankee Fork and Basin Creek."

For those readers who are unfamiliar with equipment noted above, we are including some photos of two of the types of machinery being used on the fire. Notes are below each photo and you can click on any picture to see a larger verison.
 Here is a feller buncher in action on The Halstead Fire.  The photo was taken by Tara Ross of the Summit Fire Department and posted on one of the fire's Flickr albums today.
 Here is the business end of the feller buncher.  It's both a clamp and a cutter.  First, the operator positions the machine to clamp a standing tree. Then the cutting blade severs the tree.  The hydraulic device pivots and turns on a boom so that the cut tree can then to moved out of the way.  This photo of an idle feller buncher was taken August 22 at the intersection of Basin Creek Road and Hwy 75.
The machine above is called a skidder.  It's purpose in the logging industry is to move, stack and assemble cut trees into piles.  One end is a claw like clamp and the other end has a blade to help push logs into stacks or a position where the clamp can be used.

The dozers referred to in recent InciWeb reports are generally standard construction-style bulldozers that may have been fitted with special blades or other features to facilitate their use in a wildland fire fighting situation.  Typically, all of these types of equipment are supplied and operated by private contractors.

Below is the most current Halstead Fire progression map.  (Narrative continues below map.)
We learned yesterday during our tour of the Halstead Fire Camp that fire managers are working to expand the fire's Flickr albums.  Currently, there are two such photo albums.  Here are the addresses:


The Salmon-Challis NF Flickr appears to have the most recent and a more extensive selection of Halstead Fire photos.  It is not currently linked to the InciWeb site as far as we can tell.  Fire officials are actively soliciting fire-related photos and will consider posting photos submitted by members of the public.  Below is a photo of the solicitation poster that has been widely distributed in the Stanley vicinity.  We were told that the fire photos on the Flickr albums are in the public domain.  (Narrative continues below photo.)

The last Google Earth KML data posted on the InciWeb site is for August 19.  Since that time, the infrared data has been presented as a graphic on the site's Map Page.  We will check into whether the KML files may once again be available for public usage.  A more detailed discussion of the infrared data gathering process will appear in a subsequent update.

For smoke information, click InciWeb's "Photograph" page.

Two community meetings have been scheduled one in the Stanley Community Center: Friday August 24 at 7:00 pm and the other in Sunbeam: Saturday August 25 at 7:00pm on the deck of Sunbeam Village Grill.
(Update @ 7 am 8/23/12) The most recent InciWeb site burned area total for the Halstead Fire is 94,044 acres.  Wednesday's winds picked up in early afternoon reaching peak gusts of 17 mph between 4-6 pm. The increased wind undoubtedly caused some fire spread that will be reflected in the upcoming InciWeb morning update.


Below, Halstead Fire Information Officer Eric Mosley points to the most likely area of fire growth.  This large map is updated for each morning's 6:30 am meeting of fire managers.  About 100 of the Halstead Fire Staff gather in a large tent to learn about the previous day's developments and hear the plan for the upcoming day.  (Narrative continues below each photo.)
Up-to-date maps of the fire are vital to fire managers as they analyze weather data, fuel, terrain, and all the many other factor of fire behavior.  The Halstead GIS mapping specialists use large plotter printers to keep fire managers well supplied with a wide variety of maps.  Fire camp also features a stand-alone, high-speed "copy shop" that's capable of printing everything from the daily fire plan booklets to 11x17 color fire maps for distribution to a wide variety of public contact points.

Two questions we've received over the last few days are: "How did the fire get its name and precisely where did it start on July 27th?"  The large briefing map above helped answer both those questions as shown in the photo of a portion of the map below.
The fire's ignition point is shown as a small red "X" within a circle in the upper left portion of the photo above.  Note this point is within the very far upper reaches of the Halstead Creek watershed.  Wildland fires typically receive their names from a named geographical feature located near the ignition point.

As noted in the brief update last night, we obtained enough material during yesterday's Fire Camp tour to keep us busy for quite some time.  We are still updating from the field and will post more extensive reports upon our return to Idaho Falls later today.  We hope to be able to post fresh fire data from Challis this morning.

(Update @ 8 pm 8/22/12)  We toured the Halstead Fire Camp today from roughly 1-3 pm.  We learned a lot.  The wind picked up while we were "on tour" and the fire flared into a smoke plume.

We received a totally fire class tour of Fire Camp today.  Our Host Eric Mosley was awesome.  No matter what question we threw at Eric (left) or his partner, Dave Schmitt (right), they both had appropriate answers.

As of mid-day today, the fire cost was $9-million and change.  The use of Type One helicopters has ramped up the fire cost from the $5-million-dollar range of a few days ago.

We took away enough from our tour to take at least a week to describe on this website.

The bottom line is that we gained a renewed appreciation for the service of the women and men who are stepping up to the plate to fight the Halstead Fire. Thanks, Eric & Dave!
(Update @ 12:15 pm 8/22/12) The Halstead Fire burned acreage continues to be listed at 93,720 acres, the same as yesterday.  There is no new fire perimeter data listed so that may mean there has not been a recent infrared data gathering flight over the fire.  The fire continues to be listed as 5% contained.

Monday rains helped slow fire spread but were generally less than hoped.  Brief showers lasted perhaps 15-30 minutes here and there.

The Tuesday InciWeb site update states: "Yesterday, the fire was most active above Valley Creek and Basin Butte, however, afternoon rainfall kept fire growth at a minimum. Crews continued burnout activities in Kelly Creek. Dozers worked to improve and build fire line on the ridgeline above Upper Harden. Today, in the southwest portion of the fire, crews will monitor fire behavior and engage as necessary. In the southeast vicinity of the fire, burn out operations in Kelly Creek will continue as conditions allow. Dozers and feller-bunchers will continue to improve fire lines above Upper Harden Creek."

Fire personnel is reported as 465, personnel, including 3 hand crews, 34 engines, and 6 helicopters.

In other fire news, the InciWeb site reports, "Rebecca Nourse, Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor, has reduced the area affected by the closure order covering the area south of the Salmon River from Stanley east to the forest boundary. As of Monday, August 20, 2012, areas on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of the Salmon River from Snyder Springs east to the forest boundary at Thompson Creek are open for public use. This allows the public to use the developed sites at Snyder Springs Rest Area, Torrey's Hole, and Holman Creek as well as undeveloped areas along the river bank. The river itself is still closed to the general public for floating, rafting, or other activities. However The Salmon River from Sunbeam to Thompson Creek is open to guided river floating. There are four permitted rafting companies operating that safely allows for some recreational use on the River while the incident Team still continues progress on the Halstead Fire. Know before you go."

As of noon Tuesday, conditions in Stanley are calm.  There is a smoke haze in the air but smoke is not dense.  The Sawtooths are fully visible and air quality in Stanley itself is good.  Smoke was denser last night and obscured all but the outlines of the Sawtooths.  The photo above was taken as the sun set at Sunny Gulch Campground.  We were unable to tour fire camp yesterday but will do so after lunch today.  Below is the most current available fire progression map:
Note--We inserted a "Jump Break" here to shorten the length of this article as it appears on the first page of this website.  Hopefully, that will allow the page to load faster on slower internet connections.  All the previous updates and the original August 9th article are available to read by click on the link at left. (8:30 am 8/24/12)

Thanks for coming over to read previous updates.  All updates are in chronological order with the oldest appearing last.  Even though the some content in each update is now outdated, there remains much relevant information about various aspects of the Halstead Fire.

(Update @ 8:45 am 8/21/12) Today may not produce as much rain as earlier anticipated.  The NWS produces excellent "QPF" maps.  QPF is lingo for "Quantative Precipitation Forecast."  We clipped out the two day QPF graphic and reproduced it here.  It looks like perhaps a quarter inch might be on the optimistic side.  The passing front is more likely to be accompanied by gusty winds and possible lightning. Gusts near thunderstorms could briefly reach 40 mph.

Under "Planned Actions," this morning's InciWeb site states, "Continue to hold fire N of HWY 75 and HWY 21 with hand crews and 4 type 1 helicopters through critical weather conditions for the next 12-72 hours. Strenghten point protection in Yankee Fork, Sun Beam and Lower Stanley."

The evacuation of Yankee Fork residents was lifted.  The fire is 5% contained.  Burned acreage is listed at
93,720. Personnel is listed at 463.  Fluctuations in crew personnel occur because of mandatory rest-rotation cycles. Yesterday's total personnel was 527.  The fire perimeter data, fire progression map and a more comprehensive daily update have not been posted as yet on the Inciweb site.  We will be in Stanley later today and plan to tour the fire camp there.  We should have a lot more information to post and a much more reliable internet connection.
(Update @ 1 pm 8/20/12)  The Halstead Fire continues to move closer to The Salmon River and Stanley each day, although not with big leaps and bounds and runs, as the fire managers say.  As of the August 18th Google Earth fire perimeter map (below), the closest edge of the fire to Stanley was 6 miles.  Likewise, the closest part of the fire to the river was 3.25 miles.  Those distances are "straight line" distance and forest fires generally do not follow straight lines when they advance. (Narrative continues below graphic.)

Fire personnel grew to 527 people overnight.  The helicopter fleet now stands at six and includes four Type 1 craft, the heaviest helicopters that can be brought in to work on a fire.  The Type 1 craft can hold up to 700 gallons of water or retardant and have a maximum gross take off weight of 12,501 pounds.  The Lighter Type 2 craft can carry 300 gallons of fluid and the small Type 3 can carry only 100 gallons.  The contracted rate for a helicopter ranges from $800 on up to the $7000+ range. Click here to see the most recent rate sheet.

The latest InciWeb site update today says the fire managers have 30 engines at their disposal.  Interestingly, the update also notes: "Dozers and feller-bunchers made significant progress building line and tying into the south boundary of the Potato Fire."  There has been no mention on any InciWeb site update during the past 3 weeks that has made mention of an inventory of dozers and bunch fellers. (Narrative continues below photo.)

The Sawtooth webcam shows the Sawtooth Mtns. were obscured by smoke at noon today.  Conditions on the East Fork have been much better than the Stanley area.  Although there is a smoke haze, all the various landmarks are still visible.

Below we have put in a longer-than-usual excerpt from the The Pocatello NWS Forecasst Discussion as of 2:34 am today.  It's worth including this longer snippet because for a refreshing change the author is writing in plain, understandable English free of NWS techno-garjon.  (They type in All Caps, we don't--narrative continues below excerpt.)


Here are the relevant excerpt of this morning's InciWeb site update:

"Active fire behavior observed in the Valley Creek area, southwest of BAsin Butte Lookout, and in the Basin Creek Drainage area. Areas of single and group tree torching with upslope crown runs in beetle killed timber areas. Frequent short range spotting with some long range spotting up to one mile has been observed.

The Bench fire in now 100% contained. Fire is well established in Basin Creek and West Fork of Yankee Creek. Hot Shot crews conducted burn out operations in Kelly Creek, while other crews worked to hold the fire on the SW corner to keep fire out of Marsh Creek."

Continue to hold fire N of HWY 75 and HWY 21 with hand crews and 4 type 1 helicopters through critical weather conditions for the next 12-72 hours. Strenghten point protection in Yankee Fork, Sun Beam and Lower Stanley.Continue structure protection work at Loon Creek Guard station and Diamond D Ranch and Bonanza. Hold fire E of Marsh Creek and E of Hwy 21 and N of Stanley.

Below is the latest available fire progression map.  (See note below map.)

One of the very minor affects of the Halstead Fire smoke is that it cuts down on the efficiency of solar power systems.  Power consumption was restricted by our hostess here on the East Fork yesterday and this morning because the solar batteries were basically drained. Today, she fired up the big backup genset so we currently have enough power to run a larger, better-equipped computer.  Our updates via satellite uplink here are "iffy" and we don't know from day-to-day if we will be able to update or not.  Thanks for your patience & understanding.  John Parsons

(Update @ 6 pm 8/19/12)  We apologize for the lack of updates today.  We left Idaho Falls at 5 am Sunday morning and have been up on the East Fork since 9 am today.  Although our Dear Friend here has a satellite uplink, we have been unable to use it until late this afternoon.  Hopefully, we will be able to put up some more updates from this remote location.

Here's how our day unfolded.  The smoke haze was so think over the Snake River Plain in the Arco Desert, my wife and I wondered if we would see the sunrise.  We caught a fleeting glimpse of the sun but it then disappeared.  We didn't see it again for a couple of hours.  The smoke was so thick in Mackay we couldn't see Mt. McCaleb.  The Pass Creek Road looked kind of like a dim mirage.  There was no chance to see Leatherman Peak or Mt. Borah.  In fact, the Mt. Borah Trailhead area looked very dim in the quasi morning light.  Willow Creek Summit was barely visible.  Challis wasn't quite as bad as we thought it would be.  If "10" was invisible, we rated the smoke there a "7."  Surprisingly the visibility improved the deeper we went out into East Fork Country.  By the time we arrived at our destination, we rated the air perhaps a "4" on the Ten Scale.  My mid-morning there were even patches of blue sky out here by Germania Creek.  We could almost see details in Glassford and Ibex Peaks.  By early afternoon it began to cloud up and a few raindrops fell.  There was even  a short shower that lasted perhaps 5 minute but did not wet the ground enough to dampen the deep dust.

The smoke began to move back in here perhaps 3 hours ago and now it's getting pretty thick.  We'd say visibility here is the worst of the day so far.  Glassford and Ibex disappeared about two hours ago and visibility is down to perhaps 1-1.5 miles to the south and perhaps less to the north where the thicker smoke lies.

We see from the Inciweb site that the fire grew to 91,954 acres yesterday.  Personnel bumped up from 423 to 477 but helicopters dropped from 8 to 5.  The engine count stands at 27 and there are 5 handcrews.  The morning Inciweb site states:  "The Halstead fire was very active Saturday from the old 2006 Potato Mountain burn area all the way to the Vanity Lakes area which is the whole southern flank of the fire. The fire behavior did change in the Potato Mountain area because the fuel was different and that factor took away a lot of the intensity that the fire had. The fire has paralleled the Basin Butte Road and is spotting or throwing embers into unburned areas in the east fork of Valley Creek."

We haven't noticed any wind to speak of out here on The East Fork today.  The trees are not stirring right now.  Likewise, we haven't heard any thunder or observed any lightning.  Conditions are calm and that's the main reason the smoke is settling in here now quite thick.  We'd suspect that's what is happening in the other valleys in this region as well.

With the computer set up at this remote location, we are unable to use Google Earth and it is very cumbersome to process screen shots of maps, etc. so we will have to forego the graphics for the time being.

Our schedule remains the same (subject to fire developments, of course).  We will be here tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night.  We will go up to Stanley Tuesday and hope we can find a tent campsite.  We plan to go to the 7 pm presentation at The Redfish Center.  On Wednesday, the SNRA celebrates it's official 40th anniversary with a little "ceremony" at the Stanley Ranger Station.  After that, we're heading out for a tour of the Halstead Fire camp.  After visiting with Friends in Stanley, we're heading down river to Challis.  We have a meeting with the BLM there on 8/23 and then need to run some other errands before heading home to Idaho Falls no later than Friday.

Thanks for reading and Thanks for your patience with our lack of frequent updates.  Many Cheers, John Parsons
(Update @ 10 pm 8/18/12)  Fire personnel grew today to 423.  A fresh news release entitled "Many Forest Areas Still Open Despite Fires" was issued late today by the Halstead Fire information staff..  Click here to read it.There is a new phone number to call for fire information--it is: 208-774-0011.  Hours are 8 am - 10 pm. No new fire perimeter was released today
(Update @ 11:10 am 8/18/12) Yesterday we mentioned there was a discrepancy between some of the maps showing the fire closure areas.  Today that appears to have been resolved and the most recent map now appears front & center on the InciWeb site.  Not in the clip of the map shown below, we have labeled tow areas "A" and "B."  Area "A" is on the south side of Hwy 75.  The previous closure was only on the north side of the highway.  Ditto for area "B."  Previous maps showed the closure only extending to the northerly side of Hwy 21.  Now there is a large closure area to the southwest of Hwy 21.  Note also that the Slate Creek Road is excepted from the closure south of Hwy 75.  Forest Fire closures commonly tend to encompass a much wider area than the fire itself.

(Update @ 10 am 8/18/12)  Fire managers released a morning Halstead Fire update within the past hour.  Official burned acreage is listed as 88,371 acres, up from 84,080 listed on yesterday fire progression map.  This is a gain of about 4,290 acres, considerably less than the average of the past few days.

Of note in the report is that fire personnel increase to 398 from 301 yesterday.  More importantly, the fire is getting much more helicopter support with the number of choppers increasing from 3 to 8.  Engine numbers bounced back from 19 to 26 and hand crews went from 4 to six.

The latest InciWeb report states, "On the north flank of the Halstead Fire, the fire moved towards Bernard Creek in the Vanity Lakes area. There was no growth near Trail Creek. On the southeast perimeter, the fire is above Kelly Creek and in the northeast part of the 2006 Potato Mountain fire. The fire burned about 700 acres west of Basin Butte and is at the head of east Valley Creek. A group of firefighters worked the swing shift last night in the Asher Creek area. They caught and suppressed several spot fires in that area in an attempt to hold the fire in its existing burned area.  A meeting is planned at the Challis Middle School Auditorium.7:00pm, Monday August 20.moke was thick overnight in many of the valleys surrounding the local fires resulting in poor air qualities in many of the populated areas."

As far as we can tell from the daily reports, the Halstead fire has had no more than 3 helicopters since the major resources were mobilized in late July.  As the fire has grown, those aerial resources were stretched pretty thin.  The five extra helicopters will definitely be an vital asset if and when the wind picks back up or if predicted lightning sparks new nearby fires.
(Update as of 8:30 am 8/18/12) As expected, the calm conditions overnight allowed the Stanley area to fill with stagnant fire smoke.  Even though the Sawtooths are obscured, visibility in Stanley itself is actually pretty good.  During the last few days, some areas downwind of the Mustang and Halstead fires have reported visibility lower than a half mile. The photo below was taken at 8:20 am. The smoke will probably linger until around noon but may lift out earlier.

(Update @ 7:15 am 8/18/12)  The Idaho Falls "Post-Register" has been doing a great job with fire coverage this year.  It seems each edition has news and numbers that hasn't shown up anywhere else.  This morning the "Post-Register" "article entitled "Halstead wildfire takes a breather" reports that 31 residents evacuated the Yankee Fork vicinity and 10 residents left the Casino Creek area. Seven Yankee Fork residents decided to stay and three made the same decision in Casino Creek.  The information was provided to the "Post-Register" by Custer County Deputy Mike Talbot.

According to yesterday's fire perimeter map, the closest point of the fire to both Yankee Fork and Casino Creek is 4 straight line miles.

Meanwhile, fire spokesman Bruce Palmer told the "Post-Register,"It was a relatively quiet day today.  We didn't get the fire spread we earlier anticipated."  The "Post-Register also ran an article describing the air quality problems affecting Salmon, Idaho.

As of early this morning, conditions in Stanley were calm with a temperature of 39 and humidity of 70%.  Calm conditions prevailed there from 8 pm onward through the night.  The highest wind speed clocked overnight was 3 mph. AN early view of the Sawtooth webcam indicated the Stanley area is probably pretty smoky this morning.

The Boise, Pocatello and Missoula NWS offices are in general agreement about weather patterns for the next few days.  Today is progged to be hot with temps 5-10 degrees above normal under a high pressure system that will exacerbate air stagnation.  Winds will be generally light.  Sunday into Monday might produce cooler temps with a change of some lightning and widely scattered light showers.  Best chance of actual widespread rainfall might be early in the week but that's still being debated by the NWS analysts. Temps are progged to cool into the 70's in the mountains later next week.  Today might be one of the last scorching hot summer days in the Halstead Fire zone.  Luckily, it appears the high temps might not be accompanied by stiff afternoon wind speeds.

There were no overnight revisions or updates to the InciWeb site.
(Update @ 10:30 pm 8/17/12) The Halstead Fire area got a break today.  The wind speeds weren't as high as they have been and the wind laid down about 3 pm.  Winds didn't register above 8 mph after 3 pm, in sharp contract to the last few afternoons.  Late tonight, the temp has dropped into the mid-60's and the humidity has risen to 32%.  Although the fire undoubtedly spread here and there, it's a pretty safe assumption that it wasn't as intense of a day as the rest of this week has been.

The weather's predicted to become problematic late tomorrow, Sunday and perhaps into Monday.  Lightning is in the forecast and who knows what that wild card will do?  At least tonight things were calm and somewhat stable.  Chances are today that the fire's spread added a far smaller figure to the burned acreage figure.  We're guessing it will be less than half the average of the past few days, perhaps even lower.

We've roamed the various media headlines tonight.  We see a lot of use of  "residents flee" in various headlines.  There aren't many houses up in the Yankee Fork to flee from.  As noted in the Saturday morning update, 31 residents left Yankee Fork and seven stayed.  As far as permanent residents go, the area is sparsely populated.

There haven't been any substantive updates on the InciWeb site tonight, at least nothing we could find.  We've checked Sheriff's Lumpkin's Facebook and don't see anything earth shaking there either.  We're guessing it was a pretty quiet evening compared to the last few nights.

One story line that's beginning to make the rounds isn't about the Halstead Fire but about how the Forest Service is supposedly jumping small fires early so they don't become big fires.  Use the search word string "forest service suppresses fires early" to read some articles on the subject.

We do know that the Forest Service really jumped on the Enclosure Fire near Ketchum.  Fire managers there apparently asked for and received a lot of resources pretty quickly right after initial attack.  That's going to be an instructive and interesting story to follow.

As we retire for the night, we looking forward to hearing what fire managers had to say Friday night at the Stanley Museum and The Redfish Center.  We are also looking forward to the burned acreage figures and the fire perimeter map.  We're guessing there won't be any big surprises in either of them.

Thanks for reading our Halstead Fire updates.  Have a great night, John Parsons.

(Update @ 3:45 pm 8/17/12) The fire managers released data to prepare a new perimeter map.  Also, we have been studying the confluence area of Loon and Pioneer Creeks.  Based on comparing the two most recent perimeter maps, it appears the fire advanced more than 2 miles yesterday in Loon Creek.  It now appears to be less than 3 miles from Diamond D Ranch.  We have prepared a variety of graphics of that area with comments below each graphic.

The Stanley wind gusted up to 16 between 2-3 pm but laid back down to 6 mph in the following hour.
Here are the graphics:
Above is today's fire perimeter map overlaid onto the previous day's perimeter map so you can see how the fire grew.  The southern area expanded out toward Basin Creek.  A large lobe expanded down Loon Creek toward the number "3" which is the location of the Diamond D Ranch.  No. 4 is Stanley.  No. 1 is Sunbeam and No. 2 is Bonanza.
We prepared this map just before the latest fire perimeter map was released.  It shows yesterday's fire perimeter up in Loon Creek.  The yellow line extend down toward the confluence with Pioneer Creek.
In reality, the fire didn't quite make it to the actual confluence of the two creeks but it did grow considerably in that area.  "X marks the location of the Diamond D Ranch.
Here's a topo map of the area showing how Loon and Pioneer Creeks meet at the "X".  "Y" is the ranch.
Here is the Diamond D Ranch website: http://www.diamonddranch-idaho.com/
The Demorest Family has operated the Diamond D for 61 years.  It is one of the most renowed back country guest ranches in the region.

The next update will probably be this evening, perhaps finished between 8-9 pm.

(Update @ 2:30 pm 8/17/12) The wind continues to be relatively low speed in Stanley today. As of 1:51 pm, it was blowing a mere 6 mph out of the NW. The latest text addition to the InciWeb site states, "The Halstead fire burned to the confluence of Loon Creek and Pioneer Creek. It is still a few miles from the Diamond D ranch. Hot shot crews, or specialized, experienced firefighters, will be working in the Kelly Creek area Friday morning until the inversion breaks around the noon area and the fire gets extremely active again. The burning period is expected to be longer and more intese today with teh warm wather and low humidity."  (Note--we're no longer correcting the InciWeb typos.)

The latest fire progression map was released a short time ago, it is below.  It lists burned acreage as 84,080, slightly higher than this morning's total.  There was some smoke lying against the base of the Sawtooth Range this morning but it's gone and Stanley continues to have really good air quality.
The Enclosure Fire near Ketchum has diverted from fire fighting resources.  It's 250 acres and five miles from the nearest residential structure.  You can click here to read about the latest with it.

The Halstead Fire closure area was updated on the InciWeb site but we're confused as to what changed.  There is a discrepancy between closure maps and we will try to determine which map is correct before posting it here.

The photo below was part of the morning update below.
The photo above was taken August 14 from space and posted today on the NASA Earth Observatory website.

(Update @ 10 am 8/17/12)  With each passing day, the amount of update material seems to grow much like the fire itself.  Friday's burned acreage figure is 83,857, up from 77, 251 acres reported yesterday, a gain of 6,606 acres. That's slightly more than 10 square miles.

Explaining the ten square miles of new burn, this morning's InciWeb update said, "The fire has passed the confluence of Hay Creek and is moving down East Basin Creek. While there were large columns of smoke visible from the town of Stanley today, the fire only grew about half mile on the southeast perimeter. There was another large column as a result of the fire burning in Loon Creek approximately 2-miles from the confluence with Pioneer Creek."

Here is a USGS topographical screen shot courtesy of Acme Maps showing the Hay Creek and East Basin Creek proximity to Hwy 75 and The Salmon River.  Click on it for a larger version.  (Update narrative continues below graphic.)

As of Thursday night, cost of fighting the Halstead Fire tallied $5.8-million.  Fire personnel grew slightly to 301.  The engine count dropped to 19 from 26.  Helicopter numbers are holding steady at 3 and four hand crews on duty.

The media-at-large has focused since last night on an evacuation notice for the Yankee Fork area.  It was front page news this morning on the Idaho Falls "Post-Register."  Click here to read today's P-R story. (NOTE: The story is Copyright 2012 by "The Post-Register" and may not be used without permission.)

The Forest Service made up their own evacuation notice that is posted on the InciWeb site.  Note how Loon Creek morphed into "look Creek."  (Update narrative continues below graphic.)
Meanwhile The Red Cross has set up a shelter for Halstead evacuees at 3098 Cedar Street in Bellevue. People who need help should call (800) 853-2570 and select option No. 1.

Custer County Sheriff Stu Lumpkin's Facebook is probably the best "go to" online resource to keep up-to-date on whatever action are being taken by local public safety officials.  Click here for Sheriff Lumpkin's Facebook.  The Sheriff doesn't update his Facebook often but when he does, it's usually news that's not yet available anywhere else.

Here are some other "fresh" notes from today's InciWeb site:

"The fire continued to move towards the southeast today. Evacuation notices were handed out by Custer County to areas from the Sunbeam Store to and including the Custer town and Jordan Creek to Loon Summit saying residents should evacuate by Friday. 

The fire was very active in upper Basin Creek and in the West fork of Yankee Creek drainages. There was still some burning happening in the Loon Creek by the fire, with growth continuing to the southeast and east. The columns and fire behavior we have seen is from the standidn dead lodgepole. The slopes coming towards the town of Stanley are sage brush whihc is a completely different fuel type. The fire in the timber was spotting (throwing embers to unburned areas) and crowning (jumping from treetop to treetop instead of burning along the ground).

Firefighters will identify and establish control lines/features to protect Stanley. Vegetation was removed from around the base of the powerpoles along the powerline.

Custer County is exploring different options of what to do if power is interrupted to the town of Stanley."

Ketchum's "Idaho Mountain Express carried an article about the Halstead Fire.  The paper reported on the situation of Doug Fenn, owner of White Otter rafting and proprietor of Sunbeam Village.  Here's what the IME had to say:

"In addition to causing the evacuation of Sunbeam, a small village 13 miles east of Stanley, the fire has shut down some operations on the Upper Salmon River and caused diversions and cancellations at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey.

Doug Fenn, owner of White Otter Adventures river-rafting company and also all of the buildings at Sunbeam, said he shut down his rafting trips Tuesday and is now just trying to keep his buildings safe.

"I can look behind me and see the plume going up 40,000 to 50,000 feet," he said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "The fire is marching toward us at a pretty good rate."

For Fenn, though, his season is over. He said he's made the decision to stop the rest of his tours, which were meant to last until Sept. 2. At nearly 70 customers a day during the summer, that's a loss for Fenn of about 1,400 paying customers this year.

"It's a little hard to swallow on the pocketbook," he said. "That's a big chunk. It's a tough call. Do you keep floating the river and do what you can, or do you close and get everyone out and the buildings tucked in?"

Fenn said that he and Forest Service crews have been wetting down the buildings and clearing brush and equipment away. The Sunbeam Village Grill—formerly Grumpy's North—is still open, but Fenn said it's only feeding fire crews.

"We have a lot of fire trucks and a lot of crews and they feel pretty good they can defend this property," he said.

Smoke from this fire has been choking the Wood River Valley for the last couple of days, settling into the valley and refusing to budge despite sometimes-brisk winds."

Click here to read the full article: http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005143446

Winds today might not be as stiff as the past couple of days but there's already talk that Red Flag warning conditions might return possibly as early as Sunday.

We want to get at least this much of our update material posted by 10 am this morning so we will take a break and be back soon with more.  Thanks for your patience in waiting for today's update.  We've been running late all day so far.

Before we sign off this morning, we have one final interesting article to pass along.  It doesn't relate to the Halstead Fire but we think you will find it very informative.  It's the back story of how those stranded rafters actually got out on Wednesday.  The story is copyright 2012 by "The Post-Register" in Idaho Falls and may not be reused without permission.  Click here to read it: http://goo.gl/l7WUn
(Update @ 8:30 pm 8/16/12)  This is our last update of the day.  As regular readers of this article know, we spend a lot of time trying to "roam resources" looking for interesting and informative ways to update this story.  Each and every day so far, we have been surprised to find new sources.  There's a lot of information available that isn't readily or easily found.

For example, late this evening, we finally stumbled into a totally awesome photo and video archive of the Halstead Fire that's maintained on Yahoo's Flickr by the Salmon-Challis National Forest.  There many recent photos and one video in the album/archive.  They are truly great photos.  A lot of them were taken with iPhones.  Each recent photo and the video is thoroughly documented.  We have no idea who is in charge of this part of the "fire information" effort but we want to shout out a Huge Thank You for your efforts in creating this tremendous resource.  After all the hours we've spent reporting on this fire, to find something like this tonight really makes our day.  While some of the photos are landscape fire shots, there's enough "people pictures" in this album to personalize the Halstead and Bench fires in a directly human way.
(NOTE: The Flickr album also includes some photos dating to 2004.)

Lost the shuffle of daily macro fire news is the mirco story of each human being who is doing their part on these fires.  Let us all be thankful for their awesome efforts and let us pray for their safety.  Our world is a much better place because of the women and men who step forward to serve in these hazardous circumstances.  THANK YOU FIRE FIGHTERS!!! God Bless You All!!!!

Here's the video below. And here is the link to the Flickr album-

Stanley @ 5:40 pm 8/16/12

(Update @ 5:40 pm 8/16/12) The latest Halstead fire progression map was released this afternoon. Note the large red area on the southeast sector of the fire. That didn't happen all in one day. There was no progression map prepared for the last few days so the red shows area that burned between 8/13 and 8/16.

An interesting text revision was posted up on the fire's InciWeb site today. Here it is in quotes and italics:

"On average, this fire has spread approximately 1 mile per day which is the equivalent of around 10,000 acres per day."

One square mile is 640 acres so ten thousand acres is over 15 square miles or the equivalent of an area five miles wide and three miles long. We did double check this statement with Bruce Palmer, fire spokesman and he confirmed it.  The Forest Service has spent $5.8-million fighting the fire so far.

This Friday's weekly Forum & Lecture Series presentation by the Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Assoc. (SIHA) will be delivered by fire managers as they discuss the Halstead Fire.  The first presentation will be at 5 pm Friday at the Stanley Museum between Upper and Lower Stanley.  The second presentation will take place at the Redfish Center at 8 pm.
We forgot yesterday to note the expansion of the Halstead Fire closure area. Below are two maps.  One is the total closure area.  It is a big file and you can see it much better if you click on it.  The other is a screen shot clip from the big map--it shows the southern (river) boundary of the closure area.  The far right side is the eastern limit of that portion of the Challis National Forest along this portion of the river.  The closure extends to Squaw Creek which is a couple of miles down river from Old Sawmill Station.  All roads leading north off Hwy 75 from the river corridor are off limits to the public during the duration of this closure order.

The maps below are part of a prior update.
 (Update @ 3:30 pm 8/16/12)  The USFS finally released a fresh set of KML data for the fire perimeter so we could overlay it on our own Google Earth.  THANKS!  The top screen shot is the fire perimeter presumably for 8/15/12, although it may have reflected conditions earlier today.  We measured various distances and here they are:  The closest edge to Stanley it about 7.5 miles away.  The closest straight line distance to the river is about 4 miles.  Ditto for Yankee Fork and Diamond D Ranch on Loon Creek--they are both roughly four miles from the closest point of the fire.  That part that's near Hwy 21 is roughly a little less than a half mile from the highway. (Stanley's at the very middle bottom edge of the top graphic.)

OK, in the bottom screen shot, we overlaid the August 11th perimeter map onto today's data.  The area "A" is the AUgust 11th burned area.  The area "B" is what has burned since then.  As you can see it has ballooned out on the southeast area of the fire, spreading both toward the Salmon River and Yankee Fork.  We will keep tinkering with the Google Earth view but wanted to get this posted ASAP.
Below are two more Google Earth screen shots.  Click on any of these graphics for a larger, more readable version.  OK, fire managers have said "The fire is expected to meet the boundary of the 2006 Potato fire burn area and that will hopefully take some of the energy out of the fire as the fuels change in that area."  Take a real close look and you can see the blackened areas of the 2006 Potato Fire.  They are very evident.  Basically, there's very little to burn in an area that was burned only six years ago.  Look between these two graphics for our next comments.
 Regular readers of the InciWeb have noted the fire managers have said there are natural barriers that have slowed the fires growth on the east portion of the perimeter.  Basically those barriers are shown in the graphic below.  There has been very little fire growth here and it's unlike the fire can grow much because there's not much fuel.  Those slopes are obviously pretty steep and barren.  Due to these two realities, the area most likely to expand is the same one that blew up yesterday--the southeast sector of the fire--the one that's heading for either (or both) The Salmon River and the lwoer Yankee Fork/Sunbeam areas.

(Update @ 1:45 pm 8/15/12)  The afternoon winds have picked up once again in Stanley and are gusting into the 20 mph range, a slightly higher speed than yesterday when the wind speed didn't reach the 20 mph range until near 5 pm. The wind is blowing from the northwest along a long reach stretching from near McCall. The afternoon InciWeb update states, "A weak cold front is passing through the area and it brings a very high potential for fire spread to the southeast from the southern edge of the fire perimeter, to the east/southeast along Basin Creek drainage and in the area near the West Fork of Yankee Creek. There is increasing activity and spread potential to the northeast in the Loon Creek drainage. Fire will continue to be active on the west and north."

If the past few days are any indication, wind speeds will tend to increase into late afternoon.  On previous such days, peak fire activity and the largest smoke plume have taken place between 4-6 pm and that is likely to be the case again today.

Fire officials still have not posted fresh mapping data for the fire perimeter so there is no accurate way of knowing just how far down Basin Creek the fire has extended or how far from the river the fire might be.  ID HWY 75 remains open and commercial rafting trips continue to use the river and shuttle their gear and passengers through the river corridor.

Meanwhile, ironically, Stanley continues to have awesome air quality.  Not in this screen shot from the Sawtooth web cam, you can see smoke far off on the horizon.  That's probably from either the Trinity Ridge fore or the one burning near Twin Falls.  It must be some sight to see while visiting Stanley these days--the glorious view of the Sawtooths on one hand the the amazing smoke plume of the Halstead Fire on the other.

If anyone cares to send along photos of this afternoon's blow up, we'd sure appreciate it.  We will post the photos when received. Thanks for reading.  Our next scheduled update will be done before 9 pm tonight.
(Update @ 9:30 am, 8/16/12)  The Inciweb site was updated a few minutes ago about 9:20 am.  The burned acreage number took a big jump to 77,251 acres from the 58,269 acres listed for the last couple of days.  Fire personnel dropped again to 297.  The fire picked up six hand crews, an engine and a helicopter. The latest report states, "The Halstead fire burned a pocket of standing trees near Loon Creek yesterday. The southeast flank of the fire had the most growth as the fire moved into the bug-killed trees below Basin Butte. The fire is expected to meet the boundary of the 2006 Potato fire burn area and that will hopefully take some of the energy out of the fire as the fuels change in that area. The fire is also established south of Sunday Creek and well into Duffy Basin. A 48-hour evacuation notice was issued to residents and campers along the Highway 75 corridor from Sunbeam to Lower Stanley, not including Stanley or Lower Stanley."

Neither the fire progression map nor The Google Earth data for the fire perimeter have been been updated so far this morning.
Update @ 6:50 am 8/16/12) Once again, lots to report this morning.  First, a factoid--Two Months.  Today is two months away from the officials date of expected containment for the Halstead Fire.  That means it might be 60 days before the long shadow of Halstead fades into the forest fire history books.

We received a report about last night's Community meeting from one of our long-standing Stanley reporters. Here it is in italics:

"The fire did not travel down Basin Creek instead it traveled pretty much up against the old Potato Fire and the Old Rankin fire by the fire maps updated 20 minutes before the meeting. It definitely slowed down right there. The next 48 hours of potential N-NW Cold Front winds will be the Big ? The best statement made all evening as far as I’m concerned was Gary O Malley, Executive Director of the Sawtooth Society…Telling Sandy Coates the Custer County Disaster Coordinator that “They” have got to do a better job of squelching rather than starting or propagating rumors. Yesterday’s EVAC activities were the topic of his Pointers.

The Fire moved East of Basin Creek on to the Deadwood Creek and surrounding areas as Indicated into the old burns. Word from the Salmon River Electric Coop Ken Dieze(sp) indicated to folks they will keep the Power on as long as possible and that they are working to clear around and near every pole in the possible route of the fire and USFS Team indicated they will start assisting SREC tomorrow. Lots of questions about Backup Power for Stanley. Disaster Coordinator Sandy Coates said they are trying to round  up generators for the Sewer System Lift Stations and for possible Gas Station use."


This morning's "Post-Register" in Idaho Falls ran another front page fire story and also noted Gov. Otter declared a statewide fire disaster declaration.  You can click here to read both articles.

Finally, this morning, we have some regional perspectives for you.  In the screen shot from Google Earth below, you can see how the three major Idaho fires are located in relationship to one another.  The top red outline is the Mustang fire which is now up to 85,000 acres.  The middle outline is the Halstead.  It's burned 77, 251 acres.  We hope to know the new figure later today.  The bottom outline is the Trinity Ridge fire.  It's torched 68,000 acres.

Now for some factoids. The Trinity Ridge fire is only 40 miles from the Halstead and roughly 30 miles from the Wood River Valley.  The Halstead is only 24 miles from the Wood River Valley and 36 miles from Challis.  Fire reports continue to say the Halstead is 18 miles from Stanley but Google Earth shows a portion of the fire is as close as 9 miles from Stanley.  Meanwhile, the Halstead is 57 miles from the Mustang. The Mustang, in turn, is 31 miles from Salmon.  Containment date for Trinity Ridge is listed as October 1.  No containment date is listed for the Mustang.  Halstead and Trinity Ridge are only 3% contained.  Mustang is 5%.

We will update the Halstead fire acreage as soon as it appears on the InciWeb.  However, after that update and barring a major new development in the Halstead situation, we are scaling back the frequency of our updates here to three times a day: morning, afternoon and evening.  We need to get busy writing up all the other Salmon River News which has been languishing due to our sole focus on fire coverage.  Thanks for reading this article.  Your readership has made it far and away the most popular article we've written since this website began May 16, 2012.
The best times to check for updates here will be 7 am, 3 pm, and 9 pm.
(Update @ 8:30 pm 8/15/12)  Below is a panorama photo taken a little before 5 pm Wednesday by David Denning, owner of The River Company in Stanley.  THANKS, David!  The fire smoke appears to have moved farther down the Basin Creek Drainage.  The winds were peaking about the time David took this picture.  Wind gusted up to 22 mph between 4-5 pm.  The winds have laid down this evening and are not as strong as some NWS discussion suggested they might be.

(Update @ 3:30 pm 8/15/12) Amazing but true--Stanley vicinity air this afternoon is awesome, clear and beautiful.  It could be one of the few pockets of great clear, clean air in Central Idaho right now!  The winds were essentially calm until after 2 pm today.  (See wind note below Stanley photo)
 The winds were essentially calm until after 2 pm today.  Between 2-3 pm, the peak gust measured was 16 mph at Stanley.  The winds are coming out of the northwest, as predicted and will probably  not gust much above the low 20's as the day progresses.  With the NW winds blowing the smoke away from Stanley, the Hailey airport has one mile visibility and Idaho Falls airport only three miles visibility as of 2:22 pm, according to the Pocatello NWS.

Here is a screen shot of the Google wind map as od mid-afternoon Wednesday.  We superimposed the red "o" onto the map for the approx. location of the Halstead Fire.

Unfortunately, Boise NWS is predicting the low level air will come out of the Northeast late tonight and tomorrow morning.  Here's what they had to say about air stagnation at 3:15 pm Wednesday:


In another interesting aspect of our afternoon update, Riverside, Casino Creek, Salmon River and Mormon Bend campgrounds are closed.  We just double checked with the Stanley Ranger Station.  We heard they were closed last night.  Anyway, they are not listed as closed on the InciWeb site for the Halstead Fire.  The other interesting aspect of this update is that the mid-afternoon update of the InciWeb site still gives the same number burned acreage as yesterday, despite the official spokesman saying the fire went on a a two mile run in Basin Creek yesterday.  The spokesman did mention there was no infrared flyover last night so perhaps that's why they are leaving the figure unchanged.  In any event, if they obtain fresh infrared data tonight, you can expect a large jump in acreage because the figure would essentially include two days of burning.

That's about it for the mid-afternoon update.  All eyes will be on the fire smoke plume and the wind speeds for the remainder of the day.
--------------end of  3:30 pm update------------
(Update @ 9:30 am 8/15/12) Custer County Sheriff's deputies did indeed spread the word yesterday of a voluntary evacuation between Joe's Gulch and Sunbeam.  Since the area is mostly summer homes, our contact at the CCSO was not certain how many people were contacted or if any residents heeded the notice.  Residents of Yankee Fork have only been provided with the "pre-evacuation notification" and there was no voluntary evacuation notice spread in the Yankee Fork.  Our CCSO contact said the USFS notified all campers along The Salmon River between Four Aces and and Sunbeam.  The Yankee Fork Road is now closed to campers but open to residents.  The CCSO source said that the pre-evacuation notification was issued because Custer County residents have indicated in the past that want some advance warning in case a fire should approach their area.  The CCSO is actively communicating with the Forest Service concerning the Halstead Fire.  As of 9:30 am, the most recent USFS Halstead Fire update is 17 hours old.
(Update @ 8:40 am 8/15/12) Bruce Palmer, the Halstead Fire spokesman confirmed the fire did make at least a two mile run down Basin Creek yesterday.  He estimates the fire's edge at only 4 miles from the river.  He said there was no infrared monitoring flight over the fire last night so officials aren't precisely certain of the fire's actual leading edge.

Palmer discussed the various information regarding "evacuation-related" issues.  Palmer said that the Custer County Sheriff Office has the legal authority to order evacuations and that the Fire Team does not.  The Fire Team works closely with the Sheriff's Office but has no authority to order evacuations.  Palmer said it was his understanding that the Sheriff has issued both a "Pre-Evacuation Notification" (printed verbatim below) but also a 48-hour evacuation advisory.
( Update @ 8 am 8/15/12)Another good looking morning in Stanley today!  Below is the Sawtooth webcam for 7:40 am August 15.  Ironically, Stanley continues to have largely smoke free conditions and might even have some of the best air quality in the vicinity.  Stanley and the Sawtooth Valley appear to be in a "sweet spot" as far as smoke conditions go.  Other nearby areas are experiencing heavy smoke.  Salmon, Idaho, supposedly had ash fall the size of snowflakes yesterday.  Predicted wind today could reach into the 20's but it appears it will be blowing the smoke away from Stanley and the Sawtooths.

(Update @ 6:15 am 8/15/12) The Halstead Fire grew much larger yesterday but details are sketchy.  There have been no new updates posted on the fire's InciWeb site.  This morning's Idaho Falls "The Post-Register" states, "A northwest wind arrived a day early and pushed the Halstead Fire about two miles south Wednesday, putting it on a path to threaten an unknown numbers of structures, the U.S. Forservice Service reported."

The burned acreage figure used by the The Post-Register is the same as the one released yesterday long before the fire went on its afternoon run.

The newspaper article also states, "Earlier Wednesday, the Halstead Fire Incident Management Team--working with the Custer County Sheriff's Office--recommended the evacuation of homes along Highway 75 from, from roughly Joe's Gulch to Sunbeam."  The information cited in the article apparently came from Halstead Fire spokesman Bruce Palmer.  The news item goes on to say, "People living in the area were advised to leave within the next 48 hours, Palmer said.  He wasn't sure exactly how many structures or people were threatened."

Perhaps today the Forest Service will post something on its InCiWeb site explaining how yesterday's evacuation issues evolved.  There are no further details at this time.

Meanwhile, in other fire news, The Post-Register reports in a front page article that 200 rafters have been stranded at the Cache Bar take out on the Salmon River Road.  The road was completely closed yesterday due to debris from the Mustang Fire Complex.  Salmon was said to have received asah fall as big as snowflakes.  That ash is most likely coming from the 36,000 acre Mustang Fire rather than the Halstead Fire.
The Salmon River Road is expected to be reopened today.

Today looks to be perhaps windier than yesterday.  Winds may even continue into the evening or night.  Here is what the Pocatello NWS had to say early this morning:
See: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/forecasts/display_special_product_versions.php?sid=PIH&pil=AFD



Depending on when the wind begins and how strong the winds blow, it's entirely possible for the Halstead Fire to make a run to the river today at Basin Creek.  A lot of that possibility hinges on where the active run laid down late yesterday.  Halstead Fire Spokesman Bruce Palmer confirmed the fire took a two-mile run down Basin Creek Tuesday and estimated its leading edge may now be only 4 miles from the river.  The Halstead went on a one-day five mile run earlier in its progression so it is definitely capable of putting together a long, wind-driven run today through the beetle-killed trees.

Keep an eye on Google's wind map http://hint.fm/wind/  and the hourly weather data from Stanley to monitor  today's predicted wind event: http://w1.weather.gov/data/obhistory/KSNT.html

(Updated @ 10 pm, 8/14/12)  Here is the text (in italics) of Custer County Sheriff Lumpkin's News Release as posted on his Facebook site:


LOWER STANLEY TO SNRA BORDER ON HWY 75 Thompson Crk (the actual creek) (Not the Thompson Creek Mine)

Persons are warned that current or projected threats from hazards associated with the approaching fire are severe.  This is the time for preparation and precautionary movement of persons with special needs, mobile property, and pets and livestock.

Conditions indicate a good probability that hazards associated with the approaching fire will severely limit our ability to provide emergency service protection. Dangerous conditions exist that may threaten your residence or business. You must prepare to leave at a moment notice.

Fire and Law Enforcement personnel are working in this area to provide specific information about when to leave and the route(s) to be taken. If conditions worsen, we will make an effort to contact you.

If you are absent from your home for more than a short period of time, please leave a note with your name and contact telephone in a visible location. An attempt will made to contact you. 

You will be kept advised as conditions change. Area radio stations have been asked to broadcast periodic updates.  If you have questions please call (208) 860-0434 or (208)879-2232.

Here is the link to the Facebook post of the above: http://www.facebook.com/sheriff.lumpkin/posts/494962910533143

Here is Sheriff Lumpkin's Facebook account address:

It seems some of the electronic Idaho media may have misinterpreted Sheriff Lumpkin's announcement.

This afternoon, KTVB said,  "Fire managers are urging some homeowners near the Halstead Fire to evacuate their homes. They sent out a recommendation Monday afternoon to the Custer County Sheriff’s Office. It says homes along Highway 75 from Joe’s Gulch to Sunbeam should be evacuated. That does not include Lower Stanley.The dangers of the approaching wildfire fire are severe. There has been extreme fire behavior and downhill runs that have pushed the fire near Basin Creek. Residents are urged to prepare for the movement of persons with special needs, mobile property, pets and livestock."

Idaho Falls Channel 8 said, "SALMON-CHALLIS NATIONAL FOREST, Idaho -The Custer County Sheriff's Office ordered evacuations in the Halstead Fire. Evacuations were ordered late Tuesday afternoon from the Sunbeam Lodge to Joes Gulch along Highway 75. People in surrounding area on standby."

The Idaho Statesman said, "BOISE, IDAHO — Fire commanders are encouraging evacuation of homes along Highway 75 from Joe's Gulch to Sunbeam due to growth of the Halstead Fire near Stanley."

Take a look again at Sheriff Lumpkin's Facebook release.  It is clearly titled a "Pre-evacuation Notification." It discusses common sense considerations for people who might be living in the line of fire, so to speak.  There is nothing in this Facebook document that "ordered evacuations" or speaks to purported facts stating that "fire managers" or "fire commanders"  are either "encouraging evacuation"  or "urging some homeowners...to evacuate their homes."

Note also that Sheriff Lumpkin's release states, ""LOWER STANLEY TO SNRA BORDER ON HWY 75 Thompson Crk (the actual creek) (Not the Thompson Creek Mine)"  There is neither mention of Joe's Gulch nor Sunbeam.

This type of reporting is so typical during any large forest fire.  Facts are seldom diligently checked and even black and white news releases can often be misread or misinterpreted according to the reader's own views.

Interestingly, as of 10 pm Tuesday there still is no mention of a voluntary evacuation notice or "pre evacuation notification" on the InciWeb site for the Halstead Fire.  Likewise, there is no reference to be found on Inciweb for Sheriff Lumpkin's Facebook document. A prudent observer of this (or any other) large forest fire would do well to attempt to check the assertions made in any major media release.

Here is the InciWeb site for the Halstead Fire: http://inciweb.org/incident/3062/

Moving along to discussion of the fire itself tonight, it seems entirely possible, as we speculated earlier today in this article, that the Halstead Fire went on a huge run downhill in the Basin Creek drainage.  The extent of this run is unknown at this time.  We will attempt to get more information as we are able, most likely by mid-day Wednesday.

Late mid-afternoon Tuesday, Stanley's Riverwear Manager Mark Wilson posted a Facebook/Instagram photo of today's Halstead fire smoke column.  Note the Stanley Post Office in the foreground.  This would seem to indicate the fire was making a run in the Upper Basin Creek drainage.  Thanks for the photo, Mark.

Tuesday winds gusted into the 20's in Stanley.  The temp there hit a peak of 84 between 4-6 pm with a daily low of 11% humidity.  Winds subsided in the early evening as temps dropped and humidity rose.

After receiving the photo below, we called Old Sawmill Station. They reported the sky was black toward Stanley.  They reported some ash fall Monday evening but none as of our afternoon contact.  Observers at Old Sawmill may have been looking up at the bottom of the plume shown below. Our Old Sawmill contact said the wind has picked up there today, too.

We will leave our various update notes below intact until Wednesday.  Note that this article now undergoes frequent, often substantial changes often throughout any given day.

(Update @ 3 pm, 8/14/12)  Fire officials released their afternoon report about 2 pm.  Burned acreage took another big jump of about ten square miles since the last official report.  We're not sure if that jump in acreage happened yesterday or earlier today.  Shifting winds could spark another run by the fire.  Winds speed has been gusting into the mid-20 mph range since 1 pm today.  See our notes below on how a wind-driven run might affect the Basin Creek drainage.

Here is our very first effort at producing and posting a small podcast regarding smoke conditions elsewhere in Salmon Country. We would like to collect a variety of verbal reports from North Fork up river to Sawtooth Country. If you wish to be a cooperative reporter, contact: newsphoto@salmonriveridaho.net

Try as we might, we can't seem to get a table to work on this website. At least the podcast player works.
Malm Gulch Podcast Details

Deadman Hole Reporter
Stphen Saqui describes
smoke conditions near
his home alongside
The Salmon River.
Click Play to hear.
To be continued

These two photos below show the view Tuesday morning in Sawtooth Country.  The bottom photo is the IDT webcam at Smiley Creek Airport.  The Stanley/Sawtooth webcam indicates some smoke settled during the morning but it's looked fairly clear Tuesday afternoon.  Click here for the webcam's totally awesome slideshow:

"The Post-Register" in Idaho Falls reported Tuesday morning that visibility in Salmon, Idaho, dropped to a half-mile Monday and ash actually fell from the sky in the afternoon "worsened in the evening and cloaked surfaces in a thin layer of fine, blackened particles."  The Salmon High School football teams canceled afternoon practice because "the smoke is too unhealthy for...players to be breathing in." The team coach was quoted as saying, "It's very tough to see. I can't believe it." Click here to read the entire article as it appeared in today's "The Post-Register."

All of Lemhi and Custer Counties were included in a mandatory burn ban and a Stage 1 Air Quality Advisory was issued for those areas Monday afternoon by IDEQ.

Halstead Fire spokeman Bruce Palmer reports $5.2-million has been spent on fire fighting costs as of Tuesday morning, August 14.

The most current available Inciweb Halstead Fire report was issued at 2 pm Tuesday. It lists burned acreage at 58,269, up from 51,871 listed last night and 49,322 acres the previous day.  The fire remains 3% contained with an estimated containment date of October 16, 2012.  Interestingly, fire personnel is listed as 318, down from 383 the previous day.  The reduction was because of the mandatory 14-day rest rotation for fire fighters who had been serving on the first since early after it began.  The Halstead Incident Command Post and Base camp are relocating to a consolidated location two miles west of Stanley. Relocation of the Base camp will be complete later Tuesday. Travelers on HWY 21 should use caution due to increased fire and heavy equipment traffic. (Photo @ left by David Denning, August 13, from Stanley Park)

Below is the most current Halstead Fire Progression map from 8/13/12. (Click on the image for a larger, more readable version.)

The latest InciWeb report updates news in three categories:

Fire Behavior: The majority of teh fire activity was along teh south side of the fire with group torching (trees burning from the ground up), upslope crown runs (fire in the tops of trees), and short range spotting (throwing embers).

Significant events: A New fire one mile north of the Bench fire was staffed and supresssed. The line around teh Boy Scout camp is holding. The Bench fire was maintained at it's current acerage of 217 acres. Highway 21 is open with the assistance of a pilot car. Bull Trout campground continues to be evacuated. There are area closures in effect around the Bench Fire, the Halstead fire and the roads north of Loon Creek Guard Station. The fire is well established in Basin Creek and the west fork of Yankee Creek. Firefighters worked on keeping the fire near Marsh Creek from crossing Highway 21.

Planned actions: Bench Group will continue holding the Bench fire. Firefighters will hold the Halstead fire east of Marsh Creek, east of Highway 21, and north of Stanley. Identify and establish control lines/features to protect Stanley.

Here is the INCIWEB site for this fire:http://inciweb.org/incident/3062/  

Below is the most recent available Google Earth KML file data showing the Halstead perimeter.  The Google Earth screen shot below show's the most recent data superimposed on the previous day's data.  Using both the official fire progression map and the graphic above, you can see how the fire spread to the south on Monday.

Here are the numbers:  1 = Stanley; 2 = Fire Base Camp; 3 = Grandjean 4 = Bench Fire; 5 = Middle Fork put-in (approx.); 6 = Diamond D Ranch on Loon Creek; 7 = Bonanza; 8 = Sunbeam

  InciWeb notes, "The fire is well established in Basin Creek."  The lobe of the fire extending farthest to the south is the Basin Creek portion.  We prepared two more Google Earth maps to show below that area of the fire.
 The graphic above gives an overview of the Basin Creek drainage. Stanley is at lower left and Sunbeam is just to the left of the word "Google."  We positioned Basin Creek in the middle of the graphic.  It's confluence with the Salmon River is just above the letter "S" in the word "Service" at the bottom.
Here's a closer look at how the fire is gaining ground in the Upper Basin Creek drainage area.  There's a lot of fuel in this area.  Winds are expected to begin to come out of the Northwest by tonight and tomorrow.  Winds speeds are predicted to pick up as well.  The NWS is predicting areas to the Southeast of the Halstead Fire will be most impacted by the smoke.  Depending on how the wind evolves, the Basin Creek drainage could be poised for a significant fire run during the next two days.  Westerly winds may also drive the fire closer to the heart of the Yankee Fork drainage.

Click here to view Stanley's current wind speeds.  http://w1.weather.gov/data/obhistory/KSNT.html

Fire officials conducted a Community Meeting Tuesday evening at the Sunbeam Village Grill parking lot and will stage another such meeting at 7 pm Wednesday in the Stanley Community Center.

With 45 "large" fires burning throughout the West, there is a lot of smoke in the air from various sources.  As Shannon Orr, proprietor of The Sunbeaem Village Grill said in an email this morning, "The smoke is fickle and it seems the winds are changing for the next two days. I do not have a sense of what the smoke will be."

NOTE: The original article on the Halstead Fire was posted August 9th. We had no idea that the article would be as widely read as it is.  Here is the original article as written with the information available at that time.


We have received inquiries from several readers along the lines of  "We're thinking about going to Sawtooth Country, how will that fire affect our visit?"  The purpose of this article is to discuss the Halstead Fire's past, present and possible future impact on Salmon Country from Stanley to North Fork.

The Halstead Fire north of Stanley, Idaho, has been getting a lot of media attention since late July. As usual, the presence of a large forest fire near a popular tourist attraction creates its share of misconceptions and misinformation.  Stanley is not in danger and has been largely free from the fire's dense downwind smoke plume.  Although the Sawtooth Valley was generally smoke free throughout the vast majority of time since the fire started during a lightning storm Friday, July 27, fire smoke is beginning to have a presence in the majestic Sawtooths.

The primary tourism impact from the fire so far has been the often large daily smoke plume as the fire has grown from a few hundred acres to over 45,924 acres as of late August 11. Mostly, this smoke has affected The Land of The Yankee Fork, Challis and sometimes the Ellis area.

The USDA Forest Service in the business of providing official Halstead Fire facts and briefings.  Here is the INCIWEB site for this fire: http://inciweb.org/incident/3062/   Bruce Palmer (208-860-0434) is the official Incident Contact person. What you are reading here is strictly our own opinion and should be taken for general information perspectives only.  Factors affecting forest fire behavior are incredibly diverse and can change quickly.  Please consult the official Halstead Fire website for the latest official information and data.

During periods of high winds, the Halstead Fire tends to make long runs through the dense beetle-killed trees covering what the Forest Service calls "extreme" terrain of the area.  The fire continues to generally trended away from the Stanley area.  The August 11th INCIWEB report shoes the fire grew by 3600 acres from the previous report.  That's roughly the size of the fire as reported July 30th, three days after ignited by lightning.  Large runs in any given day will produce far more smoke than when the wind is light.

 Below is the NOAA Earth Observatory photo of the Halstead Fire smoke plume from several days ago.  Due to the prevailing wind pattern, this has been the general layout of the smoke.  Stanley and Sawtooth Valley lie below the left end of this plume and, in this photo, are completely smoke free.  Challis and Ellis are on the receiving end of most of the smoke.

That was our experience last week when we spent two days in Challis and camped at the BLM Cottonwood Recreation Area near Ellis.  At times in Challis, we couldn't see any of the topography rimming Round Valley.  Sometimes at Ellis, the plume obscured the nearby topography but other times the wind shifted and the sky was clear as Ellis was more or less on the north edge of the plume. The Salmon River areas from Elk Bend to Salmon City, North Fork and beyond have been relatively smoke free.  Last week we could see the plume lying far to the south of Salmon City while enjoying Blue Bird skies.

When we drove from Salmon to Idaho Falls August 5th, the plume was high overhead from about Leadore to the INL boundary in the Snake River Plain.

The Halstead Fire website reports August 8th that, "Today was the first day that the fire didn't create a huge plume of smoke."  Although "The fire is under a full suppression strategy," the Forest Service also notes, "The topography, the fire behavior, the fuels all keep firefighters from being able to directly attack the fire."

When a large fire such as the Halstead gets underway in the rough country of the Upper Salmon River watershed, it generally burns until a wet storm passes through or the snow flies. Generally, fire crews attempt to manage such a fire's perimeters with back burns, fuel reduction, structural protection and strategic use of aerial resources.  That appears to be the case with the Halstead Fire.

The INCIWEB site states, "Firefighters are currently constructing control lines to protect the Boy Scout Camp, private property and the Highway 21 corridor. Additional crews are reducing the fuel load on the forest that is near private land, including areas such as Loon Creek and assessing structure protection needs in the Bonanza and Yankee Fork areas."  Helicopter retardant drops have kept the fire out of the west fork of the Yankee Fork.

The bottom line is that "Firefighters are using a variety of strategies to manage the fire, including direct attack, indirect attack and point protection. A mix of these strategies will be used to protect values in the fire's path in a combination that provides the best chance of being successful while minimizing firefighter exposure to risk. The goal of the incident management team is to manage the Halstead Fire in such a way that there are no serious injuries or fatalities, no critical values have been adversely impacted and the public and cooperators are supportive of fire management operations."

Halstead Fire behavior so far coupled with the statements above drawn directly from the INCIWEB site tend to indicate the fire will burn until wet fall weather arrives. In fact, the fire's official website listed the projected containment date as October 16th. It appears fire managers have set themselves up for success by stating their goal of fire fighter safety and no adverse impacts on "critical values" while most folks are supportive of the ongoing operations.

What this means to the recreational users of The Salmon River corridor is pretty simple.  If you're going to be in the Challis vicinity, be prepared for a lot of smoke on any given day.  This weekend's gala Braun Brother Reunion (BBR) was amost undoubtedly be under a thick cloud of heavy smoke.  Likewise, one of the favored recreational paddling stretches from Challis Bridge to Cottonwood Campground will probably be unpleasantly smoky.

Meanwhile, unless the seasonal wind patterns takes a dramatic shift, Stanley and Sawtooth Country should be smoke free, although a large smoke plume could be visible nearby depending on daily weather conditions.
The wild card is that the Forest Service rates the Halstead Fire's potential for growth as "extreme."  "Extreme growth potential" means roughly that under major adverse weather conditions, the fire could explode in unpredictable scope, size and direction.

The key to understanding how the Halstead Fire might affect a visit to Upper Salmon Country is in watching the wind patterns.  We found a great aftermarket national wind map courtesy of Google's development team.  It is a truly stunning piece of online technology.  You can see it here: http://hint.fm/wind/

Note that Stanley long/lat is 44.21 degrees North, 114.95 degrees West.  You can move your cursor around on the wind map until you get a point very close to those coordinates.

Also Keep an eye on the Northern Hemisphere jetstream map here: http://squall.sfsu.edu/gif/jetstream_norhem_00.gif

Read the Pocatello and Missoula NWS Forecast Discussions:


You can also check out some of the various NWS forecast models here:


Predicting how a large forest fire will evolve is, by definition, a crap shoot.  Even though the government has spent untold millions trying to learn how to predict what a forest fire will do, your guess is just about as good as anyone else's.  Keep it simple: stay informed, make plans (and camps) that can be changed quickly and be prepared to leave the area on a moment's notice if conditions change dramatically.
Above is a photo of a USDA Forest Service fire information display at the North Fork Store Friday, August 4th.  The display included Halstead Fire info even though North Fork is many miles away.  The Forest Service will often set up these displays in high traffic locations.  Staff also does a great job at distributing current fire maps and information to retail and service locations in a wide radius from any fire and especially the Halstead Fire.

If we were heading up toward the Sawtooths right now, we would expect smoky mornings and somewhat clearer afternoons and evenings.  We'd focus on the Upper Salmon River above the Sawtooth Hatchery and we would camp no farther downstream than Sunny Gulch.  We'd probably prefer to camp at Alturas and spend our time roaming the upper areas of the river's headwaters.  We'd avoid the The Land of The Yankee Fork and leave the Challis area alone.  We think is definitely still possible to have a high quality visit to Sawtooth Country.  Likewise, anything down river from Elk Bend has high odds of being smoke free--depending on wind patterns, of course. The key words are "keep informed" and "stay alert."

We hope these perspectives help.  Have a great day, Happy Camping and Many Cheers, jp

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