Idaho State Journal
Idaho State Journal

8,000 acres go up in smoke at INEEL

By Anne Minard
Journal Staff Writer
POCATELLO - A range fire burned nearly 8,000 acres on the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory before being contained early Monday.
"It's 100 percent contained, meaning it's not out but surrounded with a fire break," said Jason Bohne, a spokesman for the site.
"The last report we've had is the winds are very low. They changed crews this morning, so there's a fresh crew of our guys and BLM guys," he said early Monday. INEEL fire crews continued enhancing the fire line and monitoring for hot spots throughout the day.
Bohne said the fire did not burn through any known contaminated areas at the site.
The site maintained 12 sample locations throughout the fire that "indicated decay patterns of naturally occurring radioactivity," Bohne said, adding radiation counts were similar to those taken during site fires earlier this summer. More specific test data will be available at a later date, he said.
First spotted about 3 p.m. Sunday, the fire was located on the INEEL desert site about three miles north of U.S. Highway 20. It probably started as a result of lightning strikes Saturday evening, smoldered throughout the day Sunday and erupted into flames when afternoon winds picked up.
INEEL Firefighters and heavy equipment operators tried to direct the fire toward an area that burned earlier this summer. They were assisted by firefighters and two fire trucks from Arco. A Bureau of Land Management air tanker dropped fire retardant on the flames.
Cooler temperatures and calm winds aided the firefighting efforts during the night, and the fire burn area did not grow appreciably.
At its height late Sunday evening, the blaze burned toward the southeast and at one point was within a half-mile from the Power Burst Facility complex. The employees working at the facility were voluntarily evacuated as a precautionary measure Sunday afternoon, and preventive measures were taken to apply fire-retardant foam to propane fuel tanks. No injuries were reported, and operations there returned to normal Monday.