Weather helps crews control fires

BONNERS FERRY — With weather mapping flights, it’s hard to tell how much — or if — the Kootenai River complex has grown, Forest Service officials said.

However, the low-intensity fire “is mostly smoldering and creeping with minimal growth,” officials said in a news release Monday. The inversion layer that was keeping flights grounded also contributed to the prominent smoke seen in the area.

The fire has scorched 20,908 acres in North Boundary County. The fire, located about seven miles northwest of Bonners Ferry, is being fought by a crew of 263 attached to the Type 2 Gold East Area Incident Management Team.

Forest Service officials said crews were terminating in the north and moving south near Trout Creek Road, working to reinforce the bulldozer and handlines as well as test structure protection equipment near adjacent houses. Cleanup, patrol and monitoring are ongoing.

Minimal fire activity was observed over the Katka Wildfire by a patrol helicopter and no additional heat was reported following a few recent lightning strikes in the area, officials said.

Although recent cooler weather has helped moderate fire activity, fire behavior is expected to be slightly more active. The Katka fire, as well as recent lightning strikes, will be monitored by an air patrol.

Active fires in the area mean the closure of National Forest Trails and road closures.

“The closures near Westside Road are intended to protect people from active fires and emergency extinguishing equipment, but they also prevent visitors from entering areas where the risk of falling dangerous trees is extreme,” officials said. “Anyone looking to get out in the Selkirk Mountains always has access to places north or south of the fire like Smith Creek or Roman Nose Mountain.”

If people want to get out into the woods, Forest Service officials said their best bet is to stop by the Bonners Ferry Ranger Station to pick up a map or chat with USFS personnel to discuss options.

“Remember that fire season is still here and it is important to respect these closures for your safety and that of our firefighters,” they said.

Diamond Watch Fire

Located 5.5 miles west of Nordman, the Diamond Watch Fire remains at 49% containment. Due to the rugged, steep and dangerous terrain of the area, the fire is being fought using a contained/contained strategy.

Nearly 7 miles of containment lines have been completed and are holding the fire in place as it reaches the perimeter, Forest Service officials said.

“The fuel cut created by heavy machinery on Forest Service Road 308 was critical in containing the fire in the completed containment line,” they added.

Priest Lake Ranger District engine crews continue to patrol and extinguish the fire where they can safely access the edge of the fire. In addition, firefighters continue to use heavy equipment to improve forest roads in the area.

The fire has burned a total of 1,035 acres since it was started by a lightning strike in mid-July.

Boulder Mountain Fire

Comprehensive fire suppression tactics are being used to keep fire activity away from Tacoma Creek Road and to protect Tacoma Creek, critical Bull Trout habitat, listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act of disappearance.

The fire is located east of the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge and north of Calispell Peak and North Fork Tacoma Creek.

“Firefighters use screened intake valves to mitigate adverse resource effects resulting from fire suppression activities,” officials said. “To reduce erosion in and around the critical river habitat, manual crews use water bars spaced along control lines.

At the northern end of the perimeter, pockets of fire activity remain in areas of heavy fuel and rough terrain. Firefighters are focusing their efforts on these areas as other flanks of the fire are brought under control and crews continue to remove the hose from the line where there is perimeter containment.

The fire is listed as 74% contained and has burned 2,310 acres. A total of 414 people are assigned to the fire, which is affecting a mix of state, federal and private lands.

Thor Fire

Now a mix of four fires – Thor, Slate, Salmo and Gypsy Ridge – the fires have scorched a total of 2,257 acres with 50 people affected by the fire.

The largest of the fires, the Thor Fire, burned 1,300 acres; slate fire, 620; Salmo, 320; and Gypsy Ridge, 17.

A Type 3 incident management team manages four fires in the same general area. Each fire burns in remote, rugged terrain with difficult access. Fires do not threaten critical infrastructure, wildlife habitat or watershed integrity.

Closure, evacuations and information

• On the Kootenai River complex, the following forest service trails and roads are closed: Ball Creek Road (FR 432), Trout Creek Road (FR 634), Russell Mountain (#12), Russell Ridge (#92 ), Ball and Pyramid Lakes (#43), Pyramid Pass (#13), Pyramid Peak (#7), Fisher Peak (#27), Trout Lake (#41), McGinty Ridge (#143 ), Clifty Mountain and Clifty/Burrow (#182), Myrtle Peak Trail (#286) and Burton Peak Trail (#9). Westside Road is for residents only.

• At the Diamond Watch Fire, closure orders are in effect for Forest Service Roads 311, 308, and 1362H near the fire. However, FSR 1362 remains open. Petit Lake and its associated campsites are within the closure area.

Some camping areas along the southwest portion of Sullivan Creek Road have been advised that they are on a “prepared” evacuation status and should be ready to go if requested by local authorities.

• On the Thor Fire, the roads connecting the Idaho Panhandle National Forest are closed from the junction of FSR 302 and FSR 1013.

• In the Coeur d’Alene Ranger District, closures include Trail 148 along Casper Creek, Trail 7 from the intersection with Trail 774 to Thompson Pass, Trail 1107 near the state line , Trail 763 near the state line, Forest Service Road 938, FSR 430 and FSR 604CZ.

• All modes of travel are prohibited (on foot, mechanized, motorized and livestock) on closed roads and areas.

• A temporary flight restriction is in place on the Katka fire as well as the Scotch Creek, Russell Mountain, Eneas Peak and Trout fires. As a reminder, civilian drones are not allowed around active fires. Flying drones near an emergency scene is against the law and requires firefighters to ground their flights.

• A fire watch is in effect Tuesday through Wednesday evening, with dry and unstable weather forecast. Additionally, gusty winds and dry conditions are forecast for Wednesday.

• Information on the current status of the evacuation in Boundary County is available in a recorded message on the Boundary County Emergency Information Line at 208-696-BOCO (2626)