RICHFIELD • The Brown Butte Fire ignited sagebrush about a mile out of Richfield Sunday afternoon and it was impossible to ignore.
High winds gusting at 35 mph acted as bellows and the fire grew from 300 to 7,000 acres in a matter of hours.
The fire burned east of the town of Richfield — population 482 — and moved north. Residents gathered on gravel roads to watch the show. Thick grey clouds of smoke rose against a clear blue sky.
Alan and Isaac Davis, father and son, watched from the side of the road. They wondered what damage the fire would do to their fall hunting grounds.
Overhead, two helicopters, five single engine air tankers and one heavy air tanker flew low — about 40 feet off the ground — dipping buckets into the nearby Little Big Wood River and dropping water on the fire.
Fire crews were working quickly because of the proximity to Richfield.
Pam Piper sat on an ATV with her 2-year-old granddaughter Payton Ward. The two watched the air tankers overhead. Piper said she counted 90 seconds between the bucket dipping into the river and the water dropping on the fire.
The buckets were low enough in the sky that Piper and her granddaughter felt the mist as the tankers flew overheard.
Twin Falls District Bureau of Land Management Incident Commander Chris Anthony stood near the fire line with trainee Erich Glechler as they directed traffic over the radio.
The fire burned through sagebrush and over eroded lava blisters, making it difficult to access on the ground.
At 7:30 p.m. the Brown Butte Fire was growing but had “slowed down” an hour later, said BLM fire information officer Kyli Gough.
The BLM and Richfield Rural Fire Department continued to fight the fire into the evening.
No structures were in danger and aren’t expected to be.
The fire had grown to 7,296 acres as of 8 a.m. Monday. Containment is expected by 8 p.m. Monday night and control by Tuesday, July 23 at 6 p.m.
Check Magicvalley.com for free galleries of the Richfield and Snake River Canyon wildfires Sunday night.