FILER • Dark plumes of smoke taunted firefighters Monday as they stood watching flames slowly consume yet another Russian olive tree at the bottom of the Snake River Canyon.
The steep grade prevented fire crews from plunging into the canyon and making any sort of headway to contain the flames. A jungle of sagebrush, grass and Russian olives provided just enough fuel for flames to mosey across the canyon’s south side and offer up a hazy puff of smoke to signify where it was moving next.
The 75-acre wildfire started burning Sunday night only 4 miles west of the Perrine Bridge. Although the fire wasn’t threatening homes or roads, firefighters worried that the flames could travel up the canyon wall and burn precious wheat fields planted along the edge.
Sunday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent several helicopters to dump water on the flames, hoping to contain it. But the agency eventually pulled the air support to work on suppressing larger wildfires in the area, said BLM spokesman Josh Olsen. The fire wasn’t burning on BLM lands, and other wildfires demanded their attention.
“If we had a helicopter, we’d have this fire out in no time,” said Joe Baratti of the Filer Fire Department. “But there’s too much burning right now.”
Baratti was one of the first firefighters at the scene Sunday evening. After driving down bumpy county roads, he arrived to see flames crawling east along the canyon grade. By Monday, Baratti and his coworkers were confident the fire had stopped moving toward Twin Falls and now was headed west.
Peering over the edge of the chasm, firefighters could see the fire’s trail following the snaking river. Most of the green and plush vegetation remained untouched, but the Russian olives and sagebrush were flattened across the rock.
Back at their makeshift headquarters, firefighters gathered behind a ranch and talked strategy. With no whiteboard available, one crew member whipped out a dry erase marker and began writing on the hood of a white pickup truck. By midday, the hood was covered in phone numbers, lists of what equipment was available and other important notes quickly scribbled
Firefighters suspect the wildfire was human-caused because no lightning was reported in the area Sunday. But Baratti said it could be almost impossible to tell how the fire started exactly.
By Monday afternoon, the Filer Fire Department finally had received one piece of good news: The BLM was sending a helicopter to help contain the flames.
Firefighters could not guess when the Snake River Canyon fire will be fully controlled.