CASTLEFORD • Bouncing over blackened and smoldering remains of sagebrush, Mark Wiseman pulled his dust-covered pickup to a slow stop.
The fire safety officer wanted to touch base with one of the firefighters working on the Kinyon Road fire near Castleford. As flames began to spread across the field like fingers, the two worked on a plan.
“It’s a dirty fire,” Wiseman said as the wind swirled charred pieces of grass into his face. “Lots of fuel, lots of wind.”
What started as a 1,400-acre wildfire Saturday afternoon turned into 80,000 acres as of Sunday night. Estimates on when the fire will be fully contained and controlled are still unknown. About 200 firefighters from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Castleford Rural Fire Department are responding to the fire.
Today, a Type II fire team — more experienced in large fires — will arrive around 2 p.m. to take over operations. Once on scene, about 275 total personnel will be fighting the flames.
The team's arrival will coincide with a BLM move today to Castleford High School as a headquarters, said Andy Wiseman, superintendent for the Castleford School District.
The BLM contacted him Sunday, asking if it would be alright to move supplies to the building for as long as they continue fighting the fire, he said.
“I’m happy to help out,” he said. “These are our ranchers and families out there. We’re trying to do whatever we can to help.”
Sunday, fire crews used a base camp near the northwest end of the fire. While the area held plenty of food and Gatorade, crews were still waiting on more supplies to show up — including a porta-potty that was still missing Sunday.
“I’m surprised it’s not here yet,” Kyli Gough a spokeswoman for the BLM said.
Fire crews are finding that conducting back burns along the rural roads is one of the more successful options in keeping the fire from moving.
“I think it may be our best option at this point,” said Ray Pease, a firefighter for the BLM Twin Falls District.
Pease said the wind kept changing directions almost every time he started to make a gain on the fire.
“The wind of kind of lays down, then you get a push,” he said. “It’s not helping us at all.”
Around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, a storm cell began moving over the fire. Crews stopped all air support activity while the storm passed over the flames. While the dark clouds brought some much-needed rain, it also increased the wind and continued to spread the fire, said Gough.
The winds also disrupted a previously hoped-for containment time of 7 p.m. Sunday for the fire. The blaze's northeast, northwest and east portions showed activity late Sunday, and structure support had been ordered to help protect homes on its west side by Castleford. There remained no reports of structure damage or evacuations; one person suffering from a heat-related illness was taken to St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls.
Air support was back at work shortly after the storm passed and aerial efforts will continue today. Temporary flight restrictions over the fire area are expected to expand, and will likely also apply today to military operations.
The fire has remained primarily on federal land with the exception of it threatening a handful of structures Saturday evening. The BLM sent structure protection engines to defend homes near the community of Roseworth.
However, homes weren’t in actual danger of being damaged, said Herb Runyan, a firefighter with the Castleford fire department.
“The fire was about a mile and a half from most of the homes,” he said. “Then the wind changed and caused the fire to move away from them.”