Upscale Idaho town threatened by fire urged to flee homes

AP News
Posted: Jul 06, 2015 5:09 PM

BAYVIEW, Idaho (AP) — A wildfire in northern Idaho has destroyed at least six homes and forced about 200 residents in an upscale lakeside community to evacuate as it ballooned to more than 3 square miles Monday.

Flames have burned through a mix of year-round residences and seasonal homes near the southern shore of Lake Pend Oreille, the state's largest lake and a recreation and fishing destination. Fire managers have urged the rest of the small town of Bayview to leave their homes as strong winds, rising temperatures and low humidity threatened to fan the flames later in the day.

Officials feared the only two roads in and out of town would get clogged if everyone tried to leave at once, fire spokesman Tyler Drechsel said.

"If they evacuate now, it helps if these fires take off," Drechsel said Monday morning, noting that afternoon forecasts call for wind gusts of more than 20 mph and temperatures in the mid-90s.

A high school will serve as an emergency shelter for the area about 70 miles northeast of Spokane, Washington.

The blaze started Sunday near the lakeshore and burned upslope through timber, destroying other buildings such as boat houses and pump houses, Lyon said.

About 100 firefighters dealing with steep terrain have put in a fire line between the blaze and homes to protect the properties, fire spokesman Jim Lyon said.

The fight included four aircraft and a U.S. Navy boat that was dousing some expensive homes. The Navy operates a small submarine research facility in Bayview.

A team of investigators planned to examine where the fire started to try to determine a cause, Lyon said.

"We have a good idea of where it started," he said. "There were people out on a boat that saw it. It started down low at lake level, or near the edge of the lake, and traveled up and southwesterly."

No injuries have been reported from the fire burning through a mix of private, state and federal land.