Lawyer Complex Fire
A selection of photos of the Lawyer Complex / Clearwater Complex. If you have shots you'd like us to include, Facebook us a private message @Idaho County Free Press or email email@example.com.
Woodland Road on fire
KAMIAH (This story has been updated. Further updates can be found here.)
The Lawyer Complex fires totaled 12,981 acres as of 9:20 p.m. last night, having surged through 2,300 acres of the outlying areas around Kamiah proper, driving many residents from their homes.
Idaho County commissioner Skip Brandt sent out a photo taken on Kidder Ridge last night, along with a short update. From Brandt:
Attached is one photo that says it all. It represents most of the ridge North above Kamiah. The fire has driven over Lolo Creek, Woodland, Gleenwood, Beaverslide, and Kidder Ridge road was the only evacuating point. I took the picture as we were being driven out of the Kidder Ridge area and the fire was jumping the road and heading to Maggie Creek. The winds are slowing down and that might save Harris Ridge, but as it stands the fire is heading that way....I never could have imagined; this is the perfect storm…..
See what it looks like in the morning.
Scanner traffic at midnight described evacuation notices being delivered in Suttler Creek, which is beyond even Harris Ridge.
This morning, much of the region remains under air quality alerts. From the National Weather Service in Missoula:
Elevated concentrations of wildfire smoke in the air from local and regional fires is expected to continue into Friday. Air quality is currently in the Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category in many locations impacted by this wildfire smoke in North Idaho. It is forecast to remain in the Moderate
to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category at times through Monday morning. A cold front will move through the region today and result windy conditions. This is not expected to totally clear the smoke out of the region.
Sensitive persons should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and limit time spent outdoors.
Red Cross shelters in Kooskia, located at the elementary school and city hall, are in need of towels for people to shower, and can "always use water, powerade, fruits, vegetables and snacks," according to coordinator Denise Friant Bacon.
Update (8:30 a.m. Saturday): A pilot car is in operation on U.S. Highway 12 near Greer, according to the Idaho Transportation Department website, 511.idaho.gov. State Highway 64 remains closed between Lyons Road (3 miles east of the Nezperce area) and ID 162 (Kamiah).
Update (8:30 a.m. Saturday): Command released a heat map this morning. It appears to show heat at points west, north and northeast of Kamiah, and in swaths in a 300-degree arc around town. Heat was not detected in a wedge to the southeast of Kamiah proper.
Update (9:15 a.m. Saturday): Scanner traffic tells an incomplete story, but last night it told the story of first responders putting their lives on the line to help others get out. From Riggins area EMT Janeen Eggebrecht:
Very hard to listen to my EMT radio all night, some very scary calls. People surrounded by fire trying to get out. People putting their lives on the line trying to help. Very sad. I do hope no lives will be lost. I know there has been some very close calls. I know the Idaho County Sheriff's Office is trying to keep all safe, but, not everyone listens. ... When they say leave, please do so, your life is worth more than your things. Things can be replaced, you can not. Sad for all the animals, wild and pets.
Here's an update on the Tepee Springs Fire south of Riggins:
The TePee Springs Fire has continued to spread to the east and is now estimated at 1,500 acres and growing. The TePee Springs Fire is burning in the TePee Springs and Hazard Creek area of the New Meadows District, approximately 20 miles south of Riggins, Idaho and east of Highway 95.
The Payette National Forest in the vicinity of TePee Springs Fire is closed to public use. Hazard Campground is closed. No public access is allowed past the cattle guard located 1 mile north of Goose Lake on the Goose Lake Road, Forest Road 257. All visitors within the closed area are being evacuated. An emergency closure order will follow.
The Bureau of Land Management has issued a closure order for Hard/Hazard Creek Road Forest Road 287 to prevent access to the TePee Springs fire area from the west.
At this time, camping is still allowed at Grouse, Brundage Reservoir, Granite Lake, Upper Payette Lake and other sites outside of the closed area. However, the TePee Springs fire is very active and additional closures may become necessary. Forest users outside the closed area are advised to pay attention to fire information sources and to be very aware of your surroundings and weather conditions as this remains a dynamic situation. Do not block roads (including gated roads) or trails in the fire vicinity so that fire equipment may access the fire.
Update (9:30 a.m. Saturday): Late last night, the Flying B Ranch posted about the devastation in Lawyer Creek Canyon west of Kamiah:
This is about our friends and family of the Flying B, not the ranch itself. Staff nearly lost their homes. People around Kamiah lost their homes tonight. Hours of strong, gusting winds following more storms this afternoon ignited new fires and caused the Lawyer Complex to cross a highway and major paved roads, spreading quickly into homes, now measured at 13,000 acres. I received calls from staff being evacuated, needing to stay the night at the lodge, others calling amidst their own evacuation to check on the ranch when they didn't know if their house was still standing.
This all makes bird habitat seem very insignificant. While tragedy surrounded Kamiah we had eight staff members out at the ranch keeping an eye on hot spots to make sure no fire flared up and spread to unburned areas. Hours of patrols and numerous small fires extinguished and things at FBR look to be in good shape with a calm weather day forecasted for tomorrow. Phone lines are still down, not sure when that will be restored. ... The city was busier than I have ever seen it during any day of the year, vehicles full of belongings and a line of cars headed out of town. Even the local sporting goods store & gun/ ammo dealer was evacuating the store merchandise in case it caught fire to prevent an explosion by their gas pumps. Continue to send positive thoughts and prayers our way, the Kamiah area needs all that we can get.
The entry above was corrected at 10 p.m. Saturday.
Update (9:45 a.m. Saturday): Evacuation orders in the Kamiah area are still in effect. From incident command:
Mandatory evacuations are still in place and it is not yet safe to return to these areas. Firefighters need to determine the exact location of the fire this morning due to active burning throughout the night. As a result of yesterday’s weather event, there is also a potential for new spot fires to be identified as the day progresses. The fire activity is expected to remain high today, even with lower temperatures, due to extremely dry fuel. Road closures in the mandatory evacuation areas will remain in effect as firefighters work along roadways within the fire perimeter to identify and clear hazards such as downed power lines and snags.
Evacuation maps will be updated as situations change. This could include new areas of evacuation as the fire progresses today. Structure protection will remain a high priority throughout the fire area.
We know that structures on private property were lost or damaged yesterday but we do not yet know exactly where or how many. Firefighters and county sheriff deputies are currently working within the fire area to identify and assess the condition of these structures.
Additionally, the county sheriff’s offices will notify landowners directly if any homes have been lost or damaged. This information is not available through the Lawyer Complex fire information phone number. Thank you for your patience in this matter.
The Governor of Idaho has declared a state of emergency for Idaho due to wildfire impacts to communities and resources.
Update (10 a.m. Saturday): Federal funding has been granted to help fight the fire burning near Orofino. From Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security:
With multiple wildfires across the state, Federal assistance is being made available for another Idaho county. The State of Idaho submitted a request for a fire management assistance declaration for the Municipal Fire burning near the city of Orofino in Clearwater County. At the time of the request, the fire covered 800 acres and had burned at least two homes and multiple outbuildings. More than four-hundred homes are at risk and evacuations are in place. Threatened infrastructure includes the Dworshak Dam (owned and operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers USACE). Natural and cultural resources are also threatened.
The Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) authorization makes Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding available to pay 75% of eligible firefighting costs. This includes managing, mitigating, and controlling designated fires. These grants do not provide assistance to individual homeowners or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire. The grants only provide reimbursement for firefighting and life-saving efforts.
Friday FEMA also authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Clearwater Complex Lawyer Branch Fire burning in Lewis and Idaho Counties.
The Idaho Emergency Operations Center (IDEOC) located at the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security is monitoring the wildfires across the state and coordinating assistance to the impacted jurisdictions.
Update (10 a.m. Saturday): More from Lawyer Complex command on the fire activity near Kamiah yesterday:
The fire made a significant run yesterday afternoon on the east side of the U.S. Highway 12 and the Clearwater River. The areas affected included residences along the Woodland Ridge and Frasure Ridge roads east to Caribel and south to Nikesa Creek in Church Canyon. By 10:30 p.m. the fire had burned down to the water’s edge directly across the Clearwater River from downtown Kamiah. Firefighters were able to hold onto spot fires on the south side of the river directly south of Hearthstone Lodge just north of the city limits.
Update (10 a.m. Saturday): Fire managers are asking loggers in Idaho to help reduce the risk of new fires igniting by voluntarily taking extra precautions during tree harvesting operations in areas under Stage 2 fire restrictions -- which presently effects all of northern Idaho. From the Idaho Department of Lands:
Stage 2 fire restrictions already require logging operators to take extra measures to reduce the chance of a fire starting from equipment use and to aid in the control of a fire if one starts. However, conditions are so extreme that even with stage 2 restrictions in place fires have started during logging operations.
The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and representatives of the forest industry and the Associated Logging Contractors wrote the voluntary measures together.
The measures will be effective on Monday and until further notice. They are included at the bottom of the news release.
“Fire activity has soared in recent weeks, and the resources to fight them become tighter with every new fire that starts,” State Forester David Groeschl said. “We are grateful to the forest industry and the Associated Logging Contractors for their cooperation in helping fire managers put together a list of extra steps logging contractors can take to help us meet our mutual goal of keeping forests green.”
The IDL is requiring all its own foresters and contractors hired on IDL timber sales on endowment lands to follow the new measures until further notice.
Stage 2 fire restrictions are in effect for all lands in northern Idaho, most lands in north central Idaho, and some lands near Riggins. An interactive map showing exactly where restrictions are in place is available at http://idahofireinfo.blogspot.com/p/fire-restrictions.html.
IDL foresters and fire wardens also will provide copies of the voluntary measures to landowners, the public, and those who plan to conduct forest practices on their lands, and encourage them to consider implementing the measures.
VOLUNTARY FIRE RESTRICTION MEASURES FOR LOGGING OPERATIONS
Due to the continuing extreme fire conditions in northern Idaho, the Idaho Department of Lands and the forest industry have jointly developed and instituted the following voluntary measures on logging operations occurring on state and private forestlands currently under Stage 2 fire restrictions. Those adopting these voluntary measures plan to make them effective on Monday, August 17, 2015 until further notice.
- LOGGING AND MASTICATION OPERATIONS: Cease all chainsaw, mastication, and tracked harvesting and skidding operations by 11:00 A.M. OR If using a handheld pocket weather station (e.g. – Kestrel 3000), cease all harvesting operations when relative humidity is below 30% and wind speeds exceed 6 mph. Regardless, all harvesting and skidding operations must cease by 1 pm as required under Stage 2 restrictions.
- LINE SKIDDING OPERATIONS: Cease all line skidding operations by 11:00 A.M. OR If using a handheld pocket weather station (e.g. – Kestrel 3000), cease all line skidding operations when relative humidity is below 30% and wind speeds exceed 6 mph. Regardless, all line skidding operations must cease by 1 pm as required under Stage 2 restrictions.
Exception – gravity systems without a motorized carriage and a static tailhold where the butt rigging maintains 10-foot ground clearance throughout the yarding cycle will be permitted to operate until 1:00 P.M.
- RED FLAG WARNINGS: Suspend all harvesting and line skidding operations in areas where a red flag warning has been declared by the National Weather Service until lifted.
- DAILY EQUIPMENT INSPECTIONS: Operators should conduct daily inspections of equipment to clear away dry organic material and other flammable debris from heat sources and ensure proper functioning of all systems and components (exhaust, tracks, spark arrestors, etc.).
- WATER DELIVERY: Provide water delivery capabilities on all logging operations.
- EXTENDED PATROL: An equipment operator will remain patrolling onsite until 6:00 P.M. and be capable of operating a dozer or excavator for line construction purposes, if needed. (NOTE: Personnel are encouraged to walk the harvest unit during this extended patrol period. Consider having 2 people onsite until 6:00 pm – 1 person to operate equipment and another to call in the fire and operate water delivery systems as necessary.)
Update (10:30 a.m. Saturday): In addition to the Hard/Hazard Road closure sent yesterday, the BLM is now issuing an area closure for public safety and firefighting efforts for the Tepee Springs Fire (now over 4,000 acres).
Update (11 a.m. Saturday): The Flying B Ranch did not lose any structures last night. From the Flying B Ranch:
With all the fire activity last night and loss of structures there was a lot of confusion on what was saved and what was not. The ranch was relatively calm except for a few flare-ups which were easily contained but nothing threatening any structures.
Update (11:45 a.m. Saturday): Outside of the immediate Kamiah area, several fires have affected populated areas. The Sugarloaf Fire was caught at three-quarters of an acre roughly four miles south of Harpster; it has been put out. The Lolo 2 fire five miles northeast of Kamiah was very active yesterday. The 15-acre Slide Fire 4.5 miles east of Fenn started on Aug. 13.
Update (11:45 a.m. Saturday): A public meeting regarding the Lawyer Complex fires will be held tonight at the Life Center in Kamiah, command announced. A time will be announced later, command noted on its Facebook page.
Fisher Fire managers will host a public meeting to include a current update on at 7 p.m. at the Craigmont/Winchester Volunteer Fire Department building in Craigmont.
The Lewiston Tribune has reported a public meeting regarding the Orofino-area Municipal Fire will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at the Orofino Elementary School. From the Tribune:
Cascade Drive and Upper Fords Creek Road to milepost 7 are under Stage 3 mandatory evacuations, several other areas are under Stage 2 evacuations. More information is available at www.clearwatercounty.org and will be posted to the county's Facebook page.
See lmtribune.com for more.
Update (11:45 a.m. Saturday): The Lolo 2 fire forced seven residences to be evacuated yesterday. From Clearwater County:
The Lolo 2 fire near Weippe spread yesterday causing evacuations of seven residences, only five of them had people at them. All of the houses are located on Hidden Valley Road. As of this morning no structures have been lost but the evacuations remain in place. All of those evacuated had places to stay. Lolo Creek Road is currently closed on both the Clearwater County and Idaho County sides of the creek due to fire and fire crew activities. No other houses are currently threatened but all of the houses on Lolo Creek Road have been notified of the possibility of evacuation.
Update (12:45 p.m. Saturday): A public meeting regarding the Lawyer Complex fires will be held at 4 p.m. at the Life Center in Kamiah, command announced. Discussions will include the current fire status, current and planned actions, and outlooks.
Update (2 p.m. Saturday): More than 30 residences and more than 75 outbuildings were lost to fire in the Lawyer Complex area yesterday. Contrary to announcements made over commercial radio out of Grangeville, "At this time we are recommending that residents NOT return to the evacuated areas as they are still active fire areas," Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings said. "Those that do return, do so at their own risk." From ICSO:
Friday evening August 14, 2015, the Lawyers Complex Fire was pushed by high winds into the area east of Kamiah. Idaho County Sheriff's Deputies, with assistance from Grangeville and Cottonwood City Police, worked tirelessly through the night giving evacuation notices to those in the path of the fire.
At this time there have been no reports of death or injury as a result of the fire. Early estimates indicate that more than 30 residences have been lost as well as in excess of 75 outbuildings.
70 year old Cheryl Lee Wissler of Adams Grade died Friday evening when she fell and suffered a head wound while preparing for possible evacuation.
Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings commends the residents for the high level of cooperation his deputies received during the evacuation process.
"At this time we are recommending that residents NOT return to the evacuated areas as they are still active fire areas," Giddings said. "Those that do return, do so at their own risk".
Update (2:15 p.m. Saturday): A public meeting regarding the Tepee Springs Fire, located roughly halfway between Riggins and New Meadows, is planned for 6 p.m. MT at the New Meadows High School.
Update (2:30 p.m. Saturday): Idaho Transportation Department has cautioned that visibility is reduced along U.S. Highway 95 between Airport Road (near Cottonwood) and Old Dump Road (near Culdesac). Drive with extreme caution. Flaggers and a pilot car continue to work on U.S. Highway 12 between Greer Grade Road and No Kid Lane (two miles west of the Kamiah area). Look out for a forest fire. Look out for mobile maintenance operations. State Highway 64 remains closed from Lyons Road (three miles east of the Nezperce area) to the junction with State Highway 162 in Kamiah. State Highway 162 is open, but ITD advises "extreme caution" when driving between Fort Misery Road and Delaware Road (one to three miles west of Kamiah).
Update (3 p.m. Saturday): A major update from Clearwater Complex command:
Public Meeting: There will be a public meeting at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon at The Life Center, 4432 U.S. Hwy 12, approximately three miles east of Kamiah. Incident personnel will be available to provide the most recent information available concerning what has happened on the fires today and what the plan is for managing all fires in the Clearwater Complex.
Three Incident Management Teams are currently assigned to the Clearwater Complex and are based in Kamiah, Kooskia and Craigmont, Idaho. Additional ground and aerial resources have been ordered. Air resources can only fly when weather and smoke conditions are favorable. Multiple lightning caused fires in the complex, in order of priority, are listed below:
Lawyer 2 Fire - Kamiah, Idaho area. The fire made a significant run yesterday afternoon on the east side of the U.S. Highway 12 and the Clearwater River. The areas affected included residences north of town along the Woodland Ridge and Frasure Ridge roads, east to Caribel and south to Nikesa Creek in Church Canyon. By 10:30 p.m. the fire had burned down to the water’s edge directly across the Clearwater River from downtown Kamiah. Firefighters were able to hold onto spot fires on the south side of the river directly south of Hearthstone Lodge just north of the city limits.
Mandatory Evacuations remain in place on the west, north and east sides of Kamiah outside of the city limits. U.S. Highway 12 is still open with a pilot car moving traffic through the fire area north of Kamiah.
Numerous structures on private property were lost or damaged yesterday. Early this morning, the Idaho County Sheriff and his deputies began working with firefighters within the fire area to identify and assess the condition of these structures prior to notifying affected property owners.
Firefighters are actively engaged in structure protection and in identifying the perimeter of the fire area since yesterday’s growth. They are also searching for any spot fires that may have resulted from yesterday’s weather. Additional fires assigned to, and included in, the Lawyer 2 Fire acreage are Carrot Ridge, Old Greer, Kamiah Gulch, Lawyer 6 and Adams Grade.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. yesterday, these fires were estimated at 12,981 acres, with significant growth occurring after that time. Containment is estimated at 15%.
Lolo 2 Fire – South of Weippe, Idaho and north of Woodland, Idaho (Woodland is approx. five miles northeast of Kamiah)
This fire also made a significant run yesterday. By midnight last night, the fire was reported to be near Cottonwood and visible from the Lolo Creek Lodge along the Caribel Road.
There is a spike camp at Frasure Park for firefighters. There are operations on both the north (Weippe) and south (north of Caribel) sides of Lolo Creek Canyon. Firefighters are focusing on work
in Grouse Creek on the east side and securing the west perimeter. Resources on the ground include a hotshot crew, a Type II Initial Attack crew, and local resources totaling approximately 60 firefighters. Firefighters are also doing recon to determine the exact location of the fire perimeter after its run yesterday.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, the fire was estimated at 3,300 acres with significant fire growth occurring after that time.
Fisher Fire – Big Canyon area approximately 7 miles north of Craigmont, Idaho.
Yesterday the Fisher Fire experienced extreme fire behavior and grew in many directions. Early in the day, the fire grew to the north, establishing in Six Mile Canyon, but did not progress much north of the confluence of Six Mile and Big Canyon. By mid-day, severe northerly winds began to affect the fire, pushing it to the south out of Big Canyon in a few areas. To the southwest, the fire continued to grow in stringers of timber in Posthole Canyon towards Airport and Patton roads. To the southeast, the fire spread towards Mohler, burning timber and side-canyons, eventually breaking out onto the prairie, agricultural lands, and crossing highway 62.
Three outbuildings and one unoccupied residence were lost.
The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office issued mandatory evacuations east of Craigmont in the Mohler area. The evacuations were issued east of Fisher road and west of Hwy 162 (bordering the western edge of Nezperce city limits), and north of the area between the southern end of Fisher Road and Highway 162. At the same time, a Level II evacuation notice was issued to the City of Nezperce, but was later downgraded to Level I as the winds subsided and cooler temperatures moved into the area by the late evening. This morning, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office downgraded the Mohler area to Level II evacuation.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. yesterday, the fire was estimated to be 12,500 acres, with significant growth after that time.
Containment is estimated at 0%
Syringa Fires (Wood Rat and Big Hill fires) - NE of Syringa, Idaho
The Woodrat Fire is estimated at 3,400 acres with 5% containment. The Big Hill Fire is estimated at 100 acres with 10% containment. No additional information is available at this time.
Pilot Knob (Red River, Idaho area). The Red River area was hit heavily by lightning yesterday afternoon, with numerous smoke reports. Recon is ongoing. The original fires are estimated at 100 acres with 0% containment. There is no information available on the size or number of new starts that occurred yesterday.
New Firefighting Resources: Additional ground and air resources remain on order. Fire activity is expected to remain high today. And due to yesterday’s weather event, there is a high potential for spot fires to be located as the day progresses.
Summary: Total Acres within the Complex (as of 4pm yesterday): 32,381
Total fire personnel assigned to the Complex: 774
Update (4 p.m. Saturday): The Red River District has been picking up five to ten new fires a day since Aug. 10.
"At the time of this update, we have only three firefighters available for initial attack of new fires," Red River receptionist Vickie Guthrie said in a release Saturday. "Those already on the ground have been moved around the district as priorities change."
Wow! Our firefighters are amazing and are dealing with innumerable challenges. Nationally, all Type 2 (Regional) incident management teams (IMTs) are assigned to incidents. Locally, personnel are working extended hours and days, resulting in extreme fatigue under rough conditions. Additional heavy equipment and air support are almost non-existent. Bottom line: there are more fires than there are firefighters and support to address them. Firefighters and public safety MUST remain the first priority.
The Red River District has been picking up five to ten new fires a day since Aug. 10. At the time of this update, we have only three firefighters available for initial attack of new fires. Those already on the ground have been moved around the district as priorities change.
The majority of the fire activity on the district has occurred in the upper Newsome Creek drainage. Since the storm of Aug. 10, firefighters have successfully put out 16 of those fires. The largest of those remaining is the Baldy Fire north of Pilot Knob Lookout, at roughly 250 acres. According to a news release by the Forests, “Wildfires burning in the Syringa and Pilot Knob areas … have been folded into the new Clearwater Complex under the direction of Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team.” The complex includes dozens of fires, among them the Lawyer Fire near Kamiah and the Fisher Fire north of Craigmont. Because of the remote location, heavy smoke and hazardous travel route, although the nearest fire is still more than a mile from the Newsome town site, area landowners have been advised to prepare to evacuate at a moment’s notice. (Also included in this update is a copy of the Forest’s Baldy Fire Area Closure order with attached map.)
The Deadwood Fire near Summit Flats and two miles northwest of the Jerry Walker Cabin is assigned to a Type 3 (Local) IMT. Currently, that fire is the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests’ number one priority. The Bear Fire 1.5 miles east of the Tribal fish facility on the Newsome Road (#1858) is the Forests’ number three priority. Obviously, those priorities will change as the number and location of new fires dictate.
Located near the northern boundary of the Elk City Township on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, the Swale and Swale 2 Fires were ignited August 13 and 14, respectively, by lightning. Both fires are contained, but not controlled.
On the south end of our world, the Payette National Forest is monitoring and doing point protection (essentially taking structure protection measures) on a fire at Campbell’s Ferry. Their fire personnel are in close contact with ours and are keeping us advised of fire behavior and conditions.
Cooler temperatures and slightly higher humidity are in the forecast, along with breezy west winds. New fires are expected.
As you travel along the roads and highways, please be cognizant of fire and other emergency traffic.
[Note: Further updates can be found here. -ao]