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Crews expect State Fire to increase to 30,000 acres

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Aug 13 2013 11:31:01 PM CDT

Reporter Chris Cole brings us the story from the scorched earth of Samaria Mountain.

MALAD, Idaho -

The State Fire burning near Malad along the border of Utah and Idaho received additional help Tuesday. Fire crews out of Arizona and New Mexico arrived to assist the already thin and tired fire crews.

Crews there are saying it's about 22,000 acres and only 45 percent contained, and they're expecting it to grow this week to possibly 30,000 acres.

From the town of Malad, the fire doesn't look so serious. Reporter Chris Cole drove into the mountains, however, and found a different story.

The fierce winds blew across the burnt earth, billowing into a monstrous cloud of dust and smoke that blocked out sunlight.

The rough terrain, erratic winds and dry conditions make this blaze quite the beast to conquer.

"Rate of spread is really high and the hills are dry,” said Everett Phillips, a firefighter out of Arizona. “So it's moderate to extreme fire behavior is what we're seeing."

Cole spoke with a man whose property was saved partly because of the fire crews and partly because of defensible space. He said he was heartbroken thinking about the wild animals who lived in the area that now have no home.

Sheriff Jeff Semrad says this affects the cattle and other grazing animals too.

"It's devastating to the economy and to those ranchers,” said Semrad. “It's at least a month early to be taking them off the range.

As the wind picks up, the smoke and the dust gets in your eyes, nose and mouth. Cole said it's something you have to be there to understand.

Phillips says many homes in the area are safe for the moment but many others are in danger if the winds change.

"We've got a structure protection group in place and engines are there," Phillips said, "so right now all the homes are looking really good."

The fire looks mostly to be in the very steep ground of the mountains. Phillips also said he did a fly-over to locate some cattle today. Over the next few days, crews will look into going on horseback and retrieving the cattle. 

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