Friday, August 8, 2014

Wildfires to Keep an Eye On

Posted By on Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 10:36 AM

A handful of fires spread around the state are shifting focus away from Garden Valley as the Whiskey Complex Fire was recently contained. Now, fires in the Idaho Panhandle, near the Salmon River, and in central parts of the state are gaining momentum.

click to enlarge IDAHO PANHANDLE NATIONAL FOREST
  • Idaho Panhandle National Forest
The Upper Mica Complex
The Upper Mica Complex Fire was started by lightning in the early afternoon of Aug. 2. It's burned 248 acres 20 miles southeast of St. Maries. There are 380 personnel working on the fire, and they've contained 42 percent of it. 

The largest risk posed by the fire right now is the burning of high-value timber, but its primary activity at this point is only creeping and smoldering. Fire officials are concerned about a cold front forecasted in the next 24 to 48 hours, bringing with it lightning and potential for high winds that would create fire growth.


The Big Cougar Fire
click to enlarge IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LANDS
  • Idaho Department of Lands

Burning a much larger area, the Big Cougar Fire has burned 46,000 acres 24 miles south of Lewiston. It also started on Aug. 2, around 10 p.m.  

It's threatening 200 structures and has consumed six so far. Crews worked through the night to construct an eight-mile fire line. Helicopters continue to dip from the Salmon and Snake rivers to cool hot spots.

There are 454 firefighters on the fire, including 15 crews, four helicopters, four engines, three dozers and support personnel. Cloud cover and isolated thunderstorms today will decrease temperatures and increase humidity, while winds will push the fire north. Smoke is expected to stick around.

Fire officials held a public meeting Thursday evening in the community of Waha, with nearly 250 residents in attendance. A Stage 2 Evacuation Warning is in effect for the communities of Waha and Redbird, where residents should be prepared to leave at a moment's notice. Residents along the Snake River nearby are under a Stage 3 Evacuation Request, requiring people to leave the area immediately. Boaters on the Snake River need to be aware of helicopter and plane activity in the area.

click to enlarge IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LANDS
  • Idaho Department of Lands
The Highrange Fire
The Highrange Fire was also sparked on Aug. 2 by lightning eight miles west of White Bird near the Hells Canyon Recreation Area. The fire is now 4,078 acres in size, with no containment yet. Thirty structures are threatened, but so far none have been lost.

Firefighting conditions are extremely challenging because of high temperatures, low humidity, steep ground, tight canyons and homes in the proximity. A few camps are being set up along the fire line to keep crews close to the blaze.

Much of the crews' energy is being spent protecting homes and structures. There are 245 personnel fighting the fire, including four engines, one dozer, one helicopter and one water tender. At 6 a.m., the fire was transferred to the Western Montana Type 2 Incident Management Team.

A Stage 3 evacuation for Gretta Creek is in effect and residents should leave the area for their own safety, though no closures are in place. Recreationalists visiting the area should stay alert for changing fire conditions. A Temporary Flight Restriction is in place to keep non-fire-related aircraft out of the area.



The Goat Fire
click to enlarge SALMON-CHALLIS NATIONAL FOREST
  • Salmon-Challis National Forest

Burning two miles from the mouth of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Goat Fire has consumed 366 acres since it started from lightning on Aug. 1. Fire growth is minimal, while helicopter buckets are dropping to prevent trail closures. There are no closures at this time.

Weather conditions have favored limited fire growth, and fire officials are monitoring the fire. Because of extremely steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain, it isn't safe to staff the fire with firefighters. They're developing long-term plans to keep the fire's impact to the Middle Fork and Main Salmon River corridors to a minimum.

Salmon-Challis National Forest fire managers expect the fire to continue to burn throughout the summer, or until a significant weather event occurs.


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