(This article has been updated. Further updates can be found here.)
With an organized operation already in place, Friday's Red Flag winds fueled no repeat of the crisis that struck Kamiah the week before. The view from the River Dance Lodge this morning was "Syringa is safe." Yesterday's evacuation -- including the Level 3 (mandatory) evacuation in the community of Syringa and Smith Creek -- remains in effect. Up-to-date information about evacuations in Idaho County can be found on the Idaho County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.
Clearwater Complex command has slated a public information meeting at 6:30 p.m. in Pierce. Per Inciweb:
Clearwater Complex is Now Three Large Complexes
The Clearwater complex originated with 25+ lightning started fires. Those multiple individual fires have burned together to form three large complexes, now with three separate names: Clearwater Complex, Municipal Complex, and Motorway Complex.
The Clearwater Complex is currently 39,200 acres and is near the town of Kamiah and consists of the Lawyer Fires, Lolo Fires and Carrot Ridge Fire. This complex is being managed by Greg Poncin’s Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team.
The Municipal Complex is currently 23,476 acres and is made up of the Fisher fire near Craigmont, the Greer Fire near the old Greer Grade, and the Municipal Fire near Orofino. This complex is being managed by Mike Wilken's Southern Area Type 1 Incident Management Team (the Blue Team).
The Motorway Complex is currently 15,116 acres and is near the community of Syringa and includes the Woodrat, Four Bit, Pilot Knob, Big Hill, and Motorway Fires. This complex is being managed by Rick Kusicko's North Idaho Type 2 Incident Management Team.
From the Clearwater Complex team:
Weather: An inversion will remain over the area this morning, with by temperatures warming to the upper 70s and low 80s. Winds will be light and mostly terrain-driven at 4 to 7 mph and the relative humidity will drop to around 18%.
Yesterday’s Actions: Firefighters were able to keep the fires in the complex from spreading in most locations and took aggressive actions in two locations where movement occurred. In the Texas Creek/ Schmidt Creek area and also between the 2013 Incendiary Fire and Three Mile Road, aircraft made numerous drops of water and retardant to supplement the work of the ground forces. Elsewhere, crews completed dozer lines, mopped up existing lines, and patrolled the fire’s edge to ensure that spot fires did not occur. A hot shot crew found a spot in the Hidden Valley area and teamed up with an engine crew to secure it before it could spread.
Today’s Plans: Weather will be favorable today for firefighters to move from a reactive posture to a more proactive approach. Light winds and mild temperatures will allow them to complete direct line in areas where in the past several days they have had to go indirect. Operations Chief Mark Goeller described today as a “golden opportunity” to make significant progress in securing active parts of the fire complex. Closures: Highways 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: 41,313 total acres* Date Started: 08/10/2015
Percent Containment: 40% Personnel Assigned: 845 Equipment: 56 engines, 12 dozers, 25 water tenders Cause: Lightning Aircraft Assigned: 5 helicopters
Cooperating Agencies: Idaho Department of Lands; US Forest Service; Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protective Association; Lewis, Clearwater, and Idaho Counties; Nez Perce Tribe; City of Kamiah; Idaho Transportation Department; Idaho State Patrol; Lewis County Sheriff’s Office; Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office; Idaho County Sheriff’s Office; and nine rural fire departments.
*Command of the Fisher Fire transferred to Mike Wilkins’ Southern Area Blue Team at 8:00am on August 19. The Fisher Fire is no longer included in the Clearwater Complex acreage. Command of the Woodrat Fire transferred to Kusicko’s North Idaho Team at 8:00pm on August 19. The Woodrat Fire is also no longer included in Clearwater Complex acreage.
Far to the south, the Tepee Springs fire has grown to more than 10,000 acres. From the Tepee Springs fire team:
Current Size: 10,170 Acres
Location: Located in the area of Tepee Springs and Hazard Creek, 20 miles south of Riggins on the east side of Highway 95, 22 miles North west of McCall and north of Goose Lake.
The fire continues to advance to the South and East towards Bascom Canyon. The weather is forecasted to be hot with little humidity. Firefighters are being assisted by helicopters and air tankers as conditions allow. Fire Managers are asking the public to use caution when traveling in this area due to traffic congestion and are urging the public to continue traveling past the fire and not stopping along the roadway. There may also be fire support vehicles in the area that will need efficient and safe access along Highway 95. Firefighters are continuing to assess structures in the vicinity of the fire area. Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in place for the Payette National Forest. Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove fire is prohibited except within an agency designated recreation site and only within an agency provided structure,
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 junction of Brundage Reservoir and Goose Lake Road (Forest Road 257). Additionally all FS land west of Brundage Road to the Forest boundary in the Meadows Valley are closed. Last Chance Campground is included in this closure. 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. In addition they have issued an Area Closure.
Notifications and Evacuations:
The following areas are now in notification. (Definition of notification is as follows: Residents will be notified by the Sheriff’s office to prepare their personal items in case they are asked to evacuate).
West side of Hwy 95 North of Smokey Boulder Road to Elk Lake Road
East side of Hwy 95 South of Smokey Boulder Road to Circle C Road
East Side of Hwy 95 from Hazard Creek Road to Elk Lake Road
Evacuations are in effect for the East side of Hwy 95 from North of Smokey Boulder Road to South of Hazard Creek Road.
You can find additional information regarding the Tepee Fire at www.inciweb.nwcg.gov or visit us on our Team Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Great-Basin-IMT-7/222155447934166 or the Payette National Forest Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/US-Forest-Service-Payette-National-Forest/667908866639038 . There are other large fires burning in our vicinity that are producing smoke affecting the central Idaho Mountains. To find out about other fires not listed here go to http://idahofireinfo.blogspot.com or http://inciweb.nwcg.gov The Fire Information Hotline 208-634-0820 is updated with new information as it becomes available. Members of the public interested in receiving fire information updates from the Payette National Forest can request them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update (11:45 a.m. Saturday): From the Idaho County Sheriff's Office:
The evacuation status of the Idaho County area of the Clearwater/Lawyer Complex Fires near Kamiah has been downgraded to Level 1.
Update (noon Saturday): From the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, a summary of the combined forests' current restrictions and closures:
Stage I Fire Restrictions remain in effect for the majority of Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest lands. These provisions limit campfires or stoves to designated recreation sites, limit smoking to enclosed vehicles, and require spark arrestors on internal or external combustion engines used on national forest system lands.
Additional restrictions pertain to the Selway-Bitterroot, Frank Church-River of No Return and Gospel Hump Wilderness areas. Contact the Forest Service for specific information.
Red River Ranger District
Baldy Fire Area Closure
To ensure public safety, an area closure has been enacted for an area surrounding the Baldy Fire which is located roughly nine miles west of Elk City. The closure applies to Roads 284, 649, and 1866, and Trails 425, 477, and 424 within the closure area.
Deadwood Fire Road and Trail Closures
Segments of the following roads and trails are closed for public safety due to fire activity:
Road 492 and Trail 805. Trail 807 is closed in its entirety.
Red River Complex Trail Closures
Segments of the following trails are closed for public safety due to fire activity:
Trails 583, 502, 501, 576, 577, and 501
Moose Creek Ranger District
Selway Complex Road and Trail Closures
The following roads and trails have been closed for public safety due to fire activity:
Selway Road 223 from O’Hara Bridge to the junction of Falls Point Road 443.
Trails: Rackliff 702, East Boyd 703, Glover 704, West Glover 705, 23 Mile 707, Gedney 708, Gedney-Glover 709, West Boyd 710, Canteen 725, and CCC 734. Additionally, segments of Selway Trail 4, and Trails 405, 444, 447, 455, 458, 606, 607, and 693 are closed.
Lochsa-Powell Ranger Districts
An area closure has been enacted north of Highway 12 from the Forest boundary east to Wilderness Gateway Campground
The Lolo Trail Road 500 is closed from the junction of Weitas Butte Road 557 to the junction of the Liz Butte Road 560.
The following trails have been closed for public safety due to fire activity:
Rock Creek 221, Greenside Butte 222, Army Mule 60, Saturday Ridge 89, Saturday Creek 82, Pouliot 30, Wind Lakes 24, Tom Beal Creek 7, Friday Pass 45, and Pedro Ridge 917 in their entirety. Segments of Lochsa Peak 220, Boulder Creek 211, Lone Knob 198 ,and Nee-Me-Poo 40 Trails are closed. Warm Springs Trail 49 is closed from the junction with Wind Lakes Trail 24 to Saturday Ridge Trail 89.
Wilderness Gateway, Whitehouse, Wendover, Powell, and White Sands Campgrounds are closed.
Restrictions are constantly changing. Additional information and new restrictions will be posted at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices.
Update (noon Saturday): From the Motorway Complex incident management team:
The Motorway Complex is comprised of several fires on the Lochsa-Powell, North Fork, and Moose Creek Ranger Districts including Woodrat, Big Hill, Wash, Slide, and a group of fires located near the Lolo Motorway. The Woodrat fire has also burned onto lands managed by the Maggie Creek Protection District. The Motorway Complex, like many other fires in the area, is the result of recent lightning storms. Rick Kusicko’s North Idaho Incident Management Team (IMT) assumed command of the complex Thursday, August 20. The Motorway Complex, Incident Command Post (ICP) is established at the Kooskia airstrip.
To aid the general public with the large amount of fire information, Fire Information officers from all teams within the Kamiah and Kooskia areas will be coordinating the dissemination of information. Within the Motorway Complex, the Woodrat, Slide, and Wash fires will be listed individually. The fires located near the Lolo Motorway, approximately 7 miles east of Pierce and Weippe, will be identified as the Motorway fires.
Woodrat - The Woodrat fire is actively burning in steep, rugged terrain approximately 1 mile north and west of the Syringa community. Local crews have made good headway along the northern flank of the fire. Although winds were not as gusty as predicted, fire behavior became extreme in the afternoon and evening, producing spot fires in several areas, including across the Swan Creek Road and some dozer line along the fire’s southwest fire perimeter. Firefighters worked to keep those spot fires contained, with help from heavy helicopters. By late in the day, a spot fire became established on a ridgeline between Little Smith and Smith Creek drainages, and helicopter support helped to slow spread.
Saturday, crews will continue structure protection along Smith Creek Road and the Syringa area, and hot shot crews will continue burnout operations above Smith Creek Road to try to herd the fire north away from Syringa. Heavy and medium helicopters were used yesterday to support efforts in the Syringa area.
Due to Friday’s fire movement, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office issued additional evacuation alerts, warnings, and orders. See evacuation notes in this fact sheet and on the Woodrat Fire Inciweb page for more details.
Slide – The Slide Fire is burning in open pine and Douglas fir stands on steep south facing slopes above the Selway River. The fire is a potential threat to homes, private holdings, and the Historic Fenn Ranger Station to the east, so residents should be aware evacuation status may change as the fire spreads. Fire spread has not been significant in the last 48 hours and is primarily moving up-river. While fire spread has not been significant recently, continued terrain-driven winds may continue pushing the fire both west and east along the southern face. Thus far, shrub fields and rocky slopes to the north have helped check further northerly progression; however, the potential remains for the shrub fields to further cure out, which could allow fire spread.
Yesterday, crews continued performing structure protection along the Selway road from CCC trail down river to the Fenn Ranger Station, as well as at the Selway Cabin. In addition, fire personnel also began to evaluate the wooden bridges along the Selway River that have the potential to be impacted by advancing fire. Dozers constructed indirect line along the western side of the fire, improving existing fireline, to try to prevevnt westerly spread. However, hand crews will be necessary in order to tie that line down to the Selway River.
Wash – The Wash fire is actively burning 8 miles east of Lowell, Idaho and approximately 5 miles east of the homes located south of the Selway River, just south and east of the Slide fire. The fire is threatening grazing allotments and could be a potential threat to other areas to the south and west. Fire activity is being assessed to notify permittees and identify structures for protection. The Selway River Road #223 is closed from O'Hara Bridge, at the junction of O'Hara Road #651, to the junction of Falls Point Road #443. Ten trails that access the closed segment of Road 223 are also closed: Trails #702; 703; 704; 705; 707; 708; 709; 710; 725 and 734. The above restrictions are necessary for public safety due to wildfire activity.
The fire is currently estimated at 7,050 acres, burning in heavy fir and cedar along the north facing slopes of the Selway River and dense, upper ridgeline forests (of spruce and lodgepole pine). Dense contiguous fuels have limited fire manager’s opportunities to check southerly spread. Fire behavior has been erratic and the fire has grown rapidly up slope and up canyon. A Type 1 Incident Management Team will assume command of the Wash fire Sunday.
Motorway – The Motorway fires are located in the area referred to as the Lolo Motorway and include Lost Hat, 535, and Musselshell Creek fires, as well as numerous, smaller or more remote fires further east and south. Some of these fires are impacting local grazing allotments and have the potential to affect the communities of Pierce and Weippe. Currently crews are assessing and opening roads to access the fire perimeter and construct line. On the Musselshell Creek fire, an anchor point has been established along the 535 road and constructed approximately two miles of dozer line. Structures currently threatened by the Motorway fires are Forest Service facilities and infrastructure. Structure protection assessments and actions are currently underway in those areas, and crews structure-wrapped the Hemlock Lookout.
Evacuations: Level III evacuation orders are in place for Syringa and Smith Creek Road areas; Level II evacuation warnings were issued for the area east of Syringa up to the western edge of Lowell; Level I evacuation alerts were issued for Lowell and the area east, up the Lochsa River to the Pete King Road. Suttler Creek road remains at Level II evacuation status and residents should remain alert to rapidly changing conditions. See the Inciweb, “Woodrat Fire” page for descriptions of Evacuation Levels and their implications for residents.
Road Closures & Special Announcements: Fire managers will hold two public meetings TONIGHT!!! One public meeting will be held at the Kooskia City Hall (meeting room) at 5:00 p.m. for updates regarding the Woodrat Fire and other Motorway Complex fires. The other public meeting will be held at Pierce Community Center at 6:30 p.m. to provide updates regarding all the area fires. Significant Forest area closures are in affect and additional closures in the Selway River may be forthcoming due to wildfire activity. Closures can be located at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices. Please check back regularly as conditions and closures change frequently.
Update (4:15 p.m. Saturday): From the Idaho County Sheriff's Office: Due to increased fire activity there are now Level 2 evacuations on Selway Road from O'Hara Creek to U.S. Highway 12.
(This article has been updated. Further updates can be found here.)