Lightning caused fires: 'We expect a demanding next several days'

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A series of thunderstorms that moved across southern and central Idaho Tuesday has sparked more than a dozen new wildfires in state and federal forests.

Lightning ignited at least eight new fires on the Boise National Forest, which was hit by at least 4,000 lightning strikes Tuesday, and crews made more aggressive initial attacks on eight new blazes reported in the Payette National Forest. Officials are expecting to discover even more fires Wednesday as temperatures increase and hot and dry conditions persist into early next week.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise is tracking six major fires in Idaho that so far have burned nearly 20 square miles on land managed by the state, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

"We expect a demanding next several days as additional wildfires are expected to be reported from these thunderstorms," said Brian Harris, spokesman for the Payette National Forest.

Fire crews managed to contain one small grass fire that ignited in Ada County Tuesday, threatening houses and forcing the evacuation of nearly 100 people near the Firebird Raceway. No homes were damaged by the blaze and residents are now back in their homes.

Elsewhere, officials said the Pine Creek Fire burning in forest northeast of Boise is 10 percent contained. About 240 firefighters are working the blaze, which has burned more than 2 square miles of grass and timber managed by the Idaho Department of Lands.

In eastern Idaho, crews are working in difficult terrain to get the upper hand on the Papoose Fire, burning grass, timber and brush in the Middle Fork of the Salmon River corridor, four miles west of Salmon. The fire grew another 800 acres Tuesday and has now burned more than 7 square miles.

In central Idaho, crews made progress Tuesday on the Rough Creek Fire burning near Riggins. Fire officials said the blaze is now 60 percent contained, up from 40 percent the day before.

"There was really no significant fire growth today," she said. "We had quite a bit of wind today and it looks like the fire lines that are in, are holding."

Weather forecasters said Tuesday's storms brought above-average lightning activity, wind gusts that reached 40 mph and scattered rain showers that dropped up to a half-inch in some areas of southwestern Idaho.

For now, meteorologists predict the hot and dry conditions will carry into next week, with temperatures projected in the upper 90s for southwestern and south central parts of the state.