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UPDATE: Drops Fire near Shoshone now at 3,000 acres; 15 engines plus air attack on scene
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UPDATE: Drops Fire near Shoshone now at 3,000 acres; 15 engines plus air attack on scene

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SHOSHONE — A wildfire ate up at least 3,000 acres of rocky desert Friday, coming dangerously close to several buildings on the northwest side of Lincoln County’s largest city.

The Drops Fire began some time before 10 a.m. Friday morning right on Shoshone’s northwestern edge, next to the Lincoln County transfer station. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A handful of planes, a helicopter, 15 fire engines and roughly 150 firefighters attacked the blaze on what was already a 100-degree day without the added heat from the fire.

Drops Fire spreads more than 2,000 acres

Lt. Derek Oliver, of the Shoshone Fire Department, watches as the Drops Fire burns more than 2,000 acres Friday near Shoshone.

As of early afternoon, a massive wall of pale gray smoke blocked out much of the cloudless sky just outside Shoshone.

Planes swooped in and out of the smoke, dropping long, billowing plumes of crimson retardant on the flames. A helicopter repeatedly doused the fire with massive buckets of water.

In patches on the now-black desert, white smoke curled out of hotspots the fire had already passed through. The area smelled strongly of burnt sagebrush. Much of the desert around the fire is dominated by a brown-gold carpet of cheatgrass and other invasive species. In recent years the same area burned in the Lava Fire and Antelope Fire.

A handful of agencies, including the Wendell, Gooding and Shoshone fire departments, Bureau of Land Management, Notch Butte Rangeland Fire Protection Association and U.S. Forest Service fought the fire.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the fire had not incinerated any structures and was heading northwest, away from Shoshone.

Mitch Silvester, the BLM’s incident commander for the Drops Fire, said the wind was likely to shift later in the afternoon, potentially pushing the fire back toward the city.

Drops Fire spreads more than 2,000 acres

The Drops Fire burns more than 2,000 acres Friday near Shoshone.

“We’re really worried about it coming back,” Silvester said. “We’re really getting a good plan in place for the future to keep the people of Shoshone safe.”

The Drops Fire poses a few challenges for firefighters. For one, it’s in unforgiving terrain. The landscape is covered in lava rock outcrops that make it difficult to drive close to the fire in an engine. It’s incredibly difficult — or impossible — to drive a bulldozer over bare, bumpy areas of lava rock.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCYRmnzZl2A

On top of that, Friday’s 100-degree heat helps the fire.

“It’s extremely hot, this is one of the hottest days of the summer so far,” Silvester said. “The winds have been pretty strong this morning. Starting to calm down for a little bit, but we know they’re going to switch back the other direction.”

Silvester said that the strategy to keep Shoshone safe involves keeping a lot of engines on the fire, while “mopping up the line that could affect the city of Shoshone.” During the early afternoon, some firefighters were spraying down smoldering hotspots near the city.

Drops Fire spreads more than 2,000 acres

A helicopter drops a payload of water to try and control the Drops Fire as it spreads more than 2,000 acres Friday near Shoshone.

As a backup, firefighters are also bulldozing the area around some Shoshone neighborhoods to create a firebreak. That should create a defensive buffer zone if the primary plan doesn’t work out.

BLM Twin Falls District spokeswoman Kelsey Brizendine said that it’s been a relatively mild fire year so far. The Drops Fire is the largest the district has fought in 2020.

Brizendine also emphasized that the public needs to keep a safe distance from the Drops Fire. Silvester noted that some people have been getting in the way and potentially putting themselves in dangerous spots.

“I know it’s interesting and cool to look at it,” Brizendine said. “But we really need people to stay out of the area and let the firefighters do their jobs.”

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