PINE, Idaho - Firefighting planes dropped retardant, and ground crews trailed water hoses Monday to keep a fast-moving and unpredictable wildfire from scorching homes in a remote Idaho hamlet, where residents have been evacuated ahead of a big blaze for a second straight year.
The lightning-caused Elk Complex Fire near the central Idaho community of Pine had burned 125 square miles of sagebrush, grass and pine trees in rugged, mountainous terrain. A few miles to the south, another big fire, the Pony Complex, had burned nearly 190 square miles of ground amid escalating winds and temperatures.
Pine and neighboring Featherville were under mandatory evacuation orders Monday, a day after Elmore County sheriff's deputies went from house to house, knocking on doors to alert residents to clear out of the area.
But some people, including Pine resident Butch Glinesky, opted to stay and watch over his property in this vacation area about 50 miles east of Boise.
"As much as they say we need to be out, I think we can always offer something," Glinesky said, watching as a crew from Colorado set up structure protection in his yard. "It's just, you know the area."
Residents' insistence on staying wasn't generally welcomed by federal officials, who expressed concerns about added traffic on the roads.
"People have a false sense of security," Boise National Forest District Ranger Stephaney Church told The Associated Press. "We can't do our job when they refuse to leave and we're diverting resources" to get them out of their houses.
Last year, the Trinity Ridge Fire burned several miles away, torching nearly 228 miles and forcing hundreds to temporarily evacuate Featherville.
This year, fire officials say the Elk Complex has moved much faster, dipping in and out of ravines and torching ponderosa pine trees on ridge tops visible as bright orange smudges through the smoke cloaking the valley floor.
"Everything is behaving like it has no moisture at all," Church said.
The fire has destroyed several homes, fire officials said, though exactly how many had not yet been determined Monday.
National Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Madonna Lengerich declined to allow reporters to the site, saying the road below the charred hillside was too dangerous.