Scars Remain 10 Years after Harkness Fire in Bannock County

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Updated: 7/22/2013 6:49 pm

10 years ago today, crews were dousing hotspots and evacuations were being lifted on a devastating wildfire. The stunning images captured by KPVI cameras made the rounds nationally. By daybreak, millions of people around the globe had seen the devastation of the Harkness Fire whose scars are still there today.

It was a typical late July day here in eastern Idaho. The temperature was hot, the breeze was brisk and fires were burning in the west. However, the nation’s attention was about to shift to a blaze right here in Bannock County.

As the wind fanned the flames, the fire quickly got out of hand. Sheriff Nielsen remembers it like it was yesterday.

“It was a very hot day and it was a hot windy day,” said Sheriff Nielsen. “We had all the fuels like we did in Charlotte and it too off like a wild fire. It just took off.”

It turns out a transient started the fire which burned four structures and cost a million dollars to put out.  The man said he lit a piece of paper on fire and the wind blew it out of his hand. Whether that’s what happened or not, the incident did show how quickly a fire could spread and those lessons were applied during the response of the Charlotte Fire.

“We debriefed on the (Johnny Creek) fire and we also debriefed on the Harkness Fire and there were similar things that we knew we needed to take a look at,” said Nielsen. “And one of those was instead of trying to get in front of the fire, we’ll start evacuating and take care of the residents first.”

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