Wildfire got too close for comfort to some Pocatello area homes

Submitted photo Firefighters have been able to get the Powerline Fire burning west and southwest of Pocatello about 47 percent contained. As of Tuesday night, the fire was not threatening any structures.

Submitted photo
Firefighters have been able to get the Powerline Fire burning west and southwest of Pocatello about 47 percent contained. As of Tuesday night, the fire was not threatening any structures.

By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com 

Firefighters gained more ground in their efforts to stop a huge wildfire raging west and southwest of Pocatello on Tuesday.

They have been able to get the Powerline Fire 47 percent contained, said Fernando Pitones, a public information officer for the Great Basin Team 6 that is currently overseeing firefighting efforts in the area.

The fire was listed at 53,076 acres in size on Tuesday night — roughly 1,000 acres more than the previous day.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Pitones said no homes were being threatened and there weren’t any evacuation orders currently in effect.

That’s a significant improvement from this weekend.

The fire initially threatened homes around the northern perimeter of the fire down to Rattlesnake Road and around Pauline, located roughly 20 miles southwest of Pocatello.

Dezi Williams, who lives in the Pauline area, said she and other homeowners living nearby were told to leave on Sunday when the flames got too close to their houses.

Williams said the fire came within a mile of her property.

Submitted photo Dezi Williams, who lives in the Pauline area, said the Powerline Fire came within a mile of her home, pictured here on  Sunday.

Submitted photo
Dezi Williams, who lives in the Pauline area, said the Powerline Fire came within a mile of her home, pictured here on Sunday.

“There was a big dark cloud and flames behind the house,” she said.

While they had removed their animals and valuables from the area and taken other precautions to protect their property, Williams said she wasn’t too worried about her home. They’ve only been there for a couple of years so there aren’t really any trees and she’s kept her yard green and well watered.

But her in-laws’ and neighbor, who live on the mountain nearby, have junipers and fields around their houses. That’s why Williams began to worry when the winds shifted and started driving the fire in their direction.

She quickly traveled to her in-laws’ home and was helping them to clear out the barn when the flames began to approach and firefighters told them to leave.

She estimated the flames got within 30 to 40 yards of their neighbor’s house.

“I thought the house was going to burn down,” she said.

But planes were soon on scene dumping flame retardant.

“They made a few passes there and the fire was out. It was like a miracle — like angels from heaven (were in the) big old plane that came,” she said, adding that none of their homes were damaged.

Firefighters also came in and quickly began cutting trees down, she said, adding that they later returned to the area to clean them up.

Pitones said firefighters were performing wood-chipping in the Pauline area on Tuesday to prevent another flare-up in that location. They’ve also been working on their containment lines to ensure they’re solid.

Still, lightning and other weather conditions are continuing to cause concerns.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a thunderstorm alert near the wildfire area. Luckily, the day’s storms also brought some rain.

Pitones said the weather hadn’t caused any significant issues as of 7 p.m., but he added that similar conditions were expected on Wednesday.

Pitones said they had 468 personnel working on the fire as of Tuesday night.

Williams said many farmers and ranchers in the area have also been using their equipment to help protect properties.

“We’re a little valley and we’re really close,” Williams said, adding that all of the neighbors help each other.

While she knows people have lost some outbuildings and some much-needed haystacks, she said she’s grateful that firefighters have been able to keep homes from being destroyed.

“Firefighters did a really great job of coming in and protecting our homes and I really appreciate their efforts,” she said.

The Powerline Fire was first reported Friday night off Arbon Valley Highway near Ramsey Road on Fort Hall Indian Reservation land less than 10 miles west of Pocatello.

Officials say it has not only affected reservation, but also Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Lands property.

Pitones said the fire was human-caused — not lightning caused. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything suspicious about it. Investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened.

Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries said anyone who knows how the fire may have started can contact his office at 208-226-2319, and they will pass that information on to investigators.