WEDNESDAY: Clearwater Complex firefighters bracing for Friday

(This article has been updated. Further updates can be found here.)

Cooler temperatures occurred over Tuesday night, Aug. 17, with higher humidities. Weather today however will be in the 90’s with a relative humidity in the teens. Light winds of six to 12 miles per hour are expected out of the west, northwest. A cold front will be moving through the area on Friday bringing with it a chance of thunderstorms and high winds. Firefighters are taking advantage of the lower temperatures and lighter winds to reinforce fire lines before Friday. This is important for crews to try and stay ahead of wind driven fire activity.

There will be a daily public information meeting held at The Life Center at 6:00 p.m. This will entail a brief fire update with the latest fire information. It will also give local community businesses, non-profits, and agency companies an opportunity to meet one-on-one to give information on their services.

Yesterday’s Actions: Mop up and patrol operations continued in the southwest region of the fire around the Lawyer Canyon area. Firefighters worked along the perimeter of the fire strengthening fire lines. Crews continued reinforcing lines behind houses in the Cottonwood Flats area and north of Caribel Road, while efforts in the southeast edge of the fire focused on reinforcing fire lines behind houses east of Kamiah. The fire made runs into the Texas Creek canyon and Schmidt Creek area. Retardant was used to slow the fire’s progress. Crews working the Fisher Fire improved and held existing fire lines, mopped up hot spots (particularly in heavily-forested areas along Six Mile and Big Canyon), and continued to patrol other containment lines. The Woodrat Fire is staffed with firefighters and equipment and line construction around the perimeter has begun.

Today’s Actions: The objective of mopping up is to extinguish or remove burning and hazardous material from the perimeter inward a specific distance. Firefighters are working to mop up 100 feet in from the perimeter in the Lawyer’s Canyon area. Structure protection groups continue to assess and respond to smoke and flame reports near residences in the area. Firefighters are also continuing to work on extinguishing the hay barn that is burning off of Highway 162. Direct line construction which is the treatment of burning fuel, by wetting, smothering, or quenching the fire or by physically separating burning fuel from unburned fuel. This is being done from East Kamiah to Church Canyon to Kidder Ridge. Along Caribel Road (near Harrisburg Road) southeast towards Lolo Creek crews are constructing line and cold trailing. Cold trailing entails carefully inspecting and feeling with the hand for heat to detect any fire. The Navajo Interagency Hot Shots will be working in the Cottonwood Flats area building direct line. South of Greer and along Highway 11 firefighters will continue strengthening and holding the fire line. While working on mop up operations, crews will assess and respond to smoke and flare ups in the vicinity of structures.

Closures: U.S. Highway 12 and 11 remain open to all traffic but may periodically have a pilot car moving traffic through the fire area.

Additional Info: We have an information center at the Idaho Department of Lands in Kamiah. Fire information and updates can be found at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov or call either (406)309-0371 or (208) 507-2621.

Facts at a Glance

Size: 64,150 total acres

Date Started: 08/13/2015

Percent Containment: 25%

Personnel Assigned: 859 personnel

Equipment: 56 engines, 19 dozers, 27 water tenders

Cause: Lightning Aircraft Assigned: 4 helicopters

Cooperating Agencies: Idaho Department of Lands, US Forest Service; Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protective Association; Lewis and Idaho counties; Nez Perce Tribe; City of Kamiah, Idaho Transportation Department, Idaho State Patrol, nine Rural Fire Departments

Update (10:15 a.m. Wednesday): Three fires were put out on Tuesday on the Red River Ranger District, and three more are "expected out today." From the RRRD:

The weather has provided good relief for the firefighting effort over the past several days. On the Red River Ranger District, three more fires were put out: Lion, Squirrel and Table Fires. The Rumpus (new Tuesday north of the township), Swale, and Swale 2 Fires are expected out today. These successes will free up resources for availability to other local fires.

The Baldy Fire north of Pilot Knob Lookout was active overnight and continues active. Some growth in the direction of the Newsome town site has been observed. Currently the fire is staffed with two dozers, one water tender, and five firefighters. More equipment and personnel have been ordered. The Type 3 organization currently on the Deadwood Fire near Summit Flats will be transitioned to Baldy in the next few days as that fire winds down.

The closures for Baldy and Deadwood Fires remain in effect. Details can be found at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices under Public Notices.

The Pilot, Elk and Deer Fires near Pilot Knob Lookout are being staffed today as well.

On the Moose Creek Ranger District, the Wash Fire that started about 16 miles north of Elk City in Wash Creek has moved south and crossed the Falls Point Road (Road 443). The next opportunity to stop its southern movement will be the Red River/Moose Creek Districts boundary. That fire is currently estimated at 4,500 acres.

The Rattlesnake Fire near Crofoot Ranch in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is active and pushing northeast toward the Sheep Hill Lookout. It has also backed down the hill and is burning along the Salmon River at Rattlesnake Bar.

Information for large fires around the state and beyond can be found at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Wildfires can be reported to the Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center at 208-983-6800, or to the Idaho County Sherriff’s office at 208-983-1100.

Update (6 p.m. Wednesday): Clearwater Complex command has announced a plan to use a controlled burn to bolster a fire line between the Carrot Ridge Fire and the Lolo 2 Fire, which has been constructed 50 feet wide, four miles long on the south side of Lolo Creek Canyon. From command:

Firefighters assigned to the Northern Rockies National Incident Management Team will be conducting a nighttime firing operation this evening and throughout the night north of Woodland along the breaks of the canyon on the south and west side of Lolo Creek. This is a method that we often use to manage a fire on our terms. Here is what is will take place.

A cold front will be arriving over the fire area on Friday, with winds eventually coming out of the northwest and north by Friday afternoon. This is direct alignment with where the existing fire could move through unburned lands.

The fire in Lolo Creek Canyon will pose a direct threat to private lands if the predicted winds increase fire activity to the point where it rapidly moves out of the canyon towards private lands in the vicinity of Woodland and Pardee Corner.

A fire line approximately 50 feet wide has been constructed on the south side of the canyon for a distance of approximately 4 miles. This fireline connects the Carrot Ridge fire to the Lolo 2 fire. However, even this wide fire line is not wide enough to stop a fire coming out of the canyon driven by strong northwest or northerly winds.

The firing operation will allow firefighters to conduct a controlled operation under their terms, not the terms of an erratic fire driven by wind (for instance, similar to what occurred last Friday along Beaver Slide Road).

A nighttime operation will result in greatly reduced fire intensity due to lower temperature, higher humidity, lower wind speed and no solar (sun) energy directly on the fire.

Firefighters will use fire to burn available fuel. They will begin ignition at the edge of the 50 feet wide fireline and move their fire in the direction of the canyon in a methodical, organized and timely operation. This will be a slow, methodical process. As the fire approaches the canyon’s edge, it will then begin to burn downhill as a backing fire, slowly and continuously moving further away from the fireline.

A backing fire is less intense than a running fire. As a result, many areas of timber will be able to survive as fire burns beneath the trees rather than burning through the tops of the trees. An uncontrolled, running crown fire coming out of the canyon would be significantly more intense and have the potential to destroy more trees and property.

This operation will produce smoke and flames. Firefighters will be operating throughout the entire 4 mile length of the fireline. While flames may not be visible from many locations, smoke may increase in the Clearwater Valley during the night as well as outlying areas such as Weippe and Pierce.

Our best crews, Type 1 Hotshots, will do the ignition. The crews will be supported throughout the night by engines and heavy equipment. They will be in direct radio contact with each other and with the Incident Command Post throughout the night in case additional resources are needed to respond to any problems.

Approximately 70 landowners attended a meeting this morning at the Woodland Friends Church and were informed of the operation. They were supportive of this operation taking place in order to protect their private property.

The operation is expected to be concluded by Thursday morning, allowing a full day for additional mop up close to the existing fireline, increasing the width of the line, adding additional black (burned) land against the line and increasing the distance of any fire front coming out of the canyon from the dozer line.

The public will be updated on the timing of this operation on KIYE Radio (FM 88.7 or 105.5 (Lapwai), Inciweb and the Lawyer Complex Facebook page between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. this evening. Fire information will also be available by calling (406) 309-0371 and (208) 507-2621 until 10 p.m. or by visiting the Fire Information trailer at the Idaho Department of Lands office in Kamiah until 10 p.m.

An update on the operation will be posted to Inciweb and the Lawyer Complex Facebook page at approximately 7 a.m. Thursday morning (August 20th) and on KIYE radio later in the morning.

Update (10:30 p.m. Wednesday): From Clearwater Complex command:

August 19, 2015 9:00 p.m.

Clearwater Complex Update

Facts at a Glance

Size: 39,200 total acres*

Personnel Assigned: 683 personnel

Cause: Lightning

Cooperating Agencies: Idaho Department of Lands, US Forest Service; Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protective Association; Lewis and Idaho counties; Nez Perce Tribe; City of Kamiah, Idaho Transportation Department, Idaho State Patrol, nine Rural Fire Departments

*Command of the Fisher Fire (21,640 acres) transferred to Wilkins’ Southern Blue Team at 8:00am on Tuesday, so it is no longer included in the Clearwater Complex acreage. Command of the Wood Rat Fire (2,806 acres) transferred to Kuisko’s North Idaho Team at 8:00pm on Wednesday, so it is also no longer included in Clearwater Complex acreage.

Date Started: 08/13/2015 Percent Containment: 30%

Equipment: 39 engines, 20 dozers, 33 water tenders Aircraft Assigned: 4 helicopters

There will not be a fire information meeting in Kamiah on Thursday. However, a public meeting will be held in Fraser tomorrow, Thursday, August 20 at 6:00pm at the Fraser Community Center.

The warming and drying trend continued today and is forecast to continue tomorrow with increasing winds. High temperatures on Thursday will range from the upper 80’s to low 90’s, relatively humidities will drop to 12-14%, and winds will gust to 18 mph. A Fire Weather Watch has been issued for Friday with winds in the 20 to 25 mph range.

Today’s Actions: The fire was active today in the area north of Woodland, southwest of Schmidt Creek in Lolo Creek. Air resources, including heavy helicopters (these can drop over 1000 gallons of water) and single engine air tankers using retardant, were used to moderate this activity. Firefighters reinforced fire lines in the Willow Creek area. Small burnouts near Caribel were also conducted today.

Beginning around 9:00pm tonight, crews will conduct a large burnout operation near the edge of Lolo Creek Canyon, northeast of Woodland, to connect the Carrot Ridge Fire to the Lolo 2 Fire. This action will consist of a slow-moving backing fire that will back down the canyon and will prepare the area for the higher northerly winds forecasted for Friday.

Tomorrow’s Plans: Firefighters will mop-up and patrol the burnout area in Lolo Creek. Along Caribel Road (near Harrisburg Road) southeast towards Lolo Creek crews will continue constructing direct line. Crews will mop-up along Forest Service Road 100 and do line construction in the Church Canyon area.

Closures: U.S. Highway 12 and 11 remain open to all traffic but may periodically have a pilot car moving traffic through the fire area.

Additional Info: We have an information center at the Idaho Department of Lands in Kamiah. Fire information and updates can be found at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov or call either (406)309-0371 or (208) 507-2621.

(This article has been updated. Further updates can be found here.)

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