SUNDAY: More rain in the forecast, but fires surged before yesterday's fell

12-hour precipitation probability, per National Weather Service-Missoula, for Sunday, Aug. 30.

12-hour precipitation probability, per National Weather Service-Missoula, for Sunday, Aug. 30.

(This article has been updated. See the updates below.)

photo

Excerpt of map of fires detected by MODIS satellite, Aug. 30, available for download at http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/activefiremaps.php?sensor=modis&op=maps&rCode=nrw.

The western area of the Motorway Complex received a tenth of an inch of rain yesterday, Aug. 29. Far to the east, the Powell-area Jay Point and Boulder fire areas received hundredth of an inch of rain. Much of Idaho County received similar amounts, according to the National Weather Service, which estimates an 80 percent chance of more rain today across much of the region.

Update (9:30 a.m.): A public meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the Three Rivers Resort and Motel in Lowell. From the Motorway Complex incident management team:

Motorway Complex

Date Started: 8/14

Cause: lightning

Size: 17,154 acres

Containment: 40%

Personnel: 540

Jay Point Fire

Date Started: 8/17

Cause: lightning

Size: 3,753

Containment: 10%

Personnel: 106

Boulder Fire

Date Started: 8/11

Cause: lightning

Size: 4,279

Containment: 0%

Personnel: 30

A Public Meeting will be held Today, August 30 at 5 p.m. at the Three Rivers Resort and Motel at Lowell, Idaho.

Weather: Moisture yesterday reduced fire behavior. The western area of the complex received a tenth of an inch of rain, and Jay Point and Boulder areas received hundredth of an inch of rain. Cooler air is expected to move into the area, today bringing a renewed chance of rain. Relative humidity will remain higher, ranging from 40 to 60 percent.

Wood Rat: Firefighters will take advantage of the change in weather and begin constructing direct hand line in areas where possible. The main focus of today’s operations will be on securing residences north of Highway 12 near Mile Marker 85 and Reflection Inn where the fire backed down the hill. Firefighters will continue to work on connecting a fireline from the Suttler Creek Road down to Highway 12. Resources will shift today to the southern areas of the fire where most private residences are located.

Slide Fire: A heavy equipment task force will begin to construct indirect contingency line should the fire continue to move toward Lowell. Due to successful firing operations Friday, firefighters will be able to construct direct fire line in the northwest area of the fire. Helicopters will continue to support ground resources in this effort. Structure protection will remain in place around the Fenn Ranger Station. Rolling debris and snags remain a concern for protecting structures. Thirty-two plastic culverts along the Selway road were damaged due to the fire activity. The National Forest will begin replacement of these culverts today.

Jay Point and Boulder Fires: Feller Bunchers and other heavy equipment are being used to open up the 5646 Road above Powell as a way to access the fire. A short video of how a feller buncher assists in fire operations can be seen at this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0IzqRBl8PM . Today’s operations will focus on constructing fireline from Social Corner to the east along the Tom Buell Road to stop the fire’s movement toward Powell and Western Pacific timber lands. Firefighters will continue to work on the Boulder fire. Crews are doing prep work which entails thinning, trimming and debris removal,around Lolo Hot Springs should the fire burn into Montana.

Smoke Concerns: Air quality continues to be unhealthy. For more information on current air quality conditions, visit http://airquality.deq.idaho.gov/ and http://app.airsis.com/USFS/fleet.aspx. For information about mitigating smoke related health hazards, visit http://idsmoke.blogspot.com/p/smoke-and-health.html

Closures: The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have issued an area closure prohibiting “human entry” into lands managed by the forests, with the exception of the Palouse Ranger District. Closures are listed at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices

Update (9:30 a.m.): Before yesterday's wind, the combined forests had 275 fires which had burned across more than 100,000 acres. No rain was reported on parts of the Salmon River. From the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests:

Many of the widespread wildfires on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests made significant runs yesterday, pushed by gusty winds and low relative humidities. Of note, Tepee Springs Fire spread an estimated 5 ½ miles in a few hours.

Consequently, lands managed by the Nez Perce-National Forest outside of the Palouse Ranger District have been closed to public access. The action was taken as a precautionary measure during a period of extreme fire activity.

Prior to the wind event Saturday, the Forests had detected 275 fires which had burned across more than 100,000 acres.

Suppression activities for fires on national forest system lands had been limited after an August 10 lightning storm ignited numerous fires across north-central Idaho, many close to homes and communities. Since that time, firefighting personnel and equipment have been concentrated in these areas with private property and homes.

Consequently, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest managers have had few firefighting resources to actively fight backcountry fires, many of which have grown large very quickly. It is expected that more fires exist. Firefighting resources available to the Forests have concentrated efforts on initial attack of new fire starts, monitoring fires, and point protection for the Forests’ lookouts, cabins and pack bridges ahead of advancing fires.

Precipitation across the Forest Saturday was spotty, ranging from none on the Salmon River (where temperatures were in the 100s with gusty winds) to .16 on the Palouse Ranger District. Forest managers expect very little of that precipitation actually reached the ground. The precipitation was a season slowing event, but definitely not a season ending event.

After scattered showers today, the weather is expected to be warm and dry early in the week. Forest managers will monitor conditions and make changes to the Forest closure when it is safe to do so. Forest managers continue to work with partner agencies and permittees in the implementation of the closure.

The safety of the public and firefighters continues to be the Forests’ number one priority.

Closure notices related to fire activity are posted at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/nezperceclearwater/home. Click on the “Fire Information” icon at the top of the page.

Update (9:45 a.m.): From Idaho Transportation Department: State Highway 14 remains blocked between Hungry Ridge Road and the west Elk City limits, but the road is open for local access. This applies from milepost 23 to milepost 49, from Hungry Ridge Road to Elk City.

Update (10 a.m.): Ranchers in the Riggins and Lucile areas reported receiving a tenth to as much as three-tenths of an inch of rain yesterday. To report a rainfall amount by email, contact FreePressNews@IdahoCountyFreePress.com with a location, date/time and amount, or call 983-1200.

Update (10:30 a.m.): The Tepee Springs Fire is now estimated at nearly 80,000 acres. A community meeting for information regarding the Tepee Springs Fire is scheduled tonight at the Salmon River High School in Riggins, 6 p.m. MT Aug. 30. From the Tepee Springs Fire IMT:

Fire Update

High winds from the south pushed the fire across the Salmon River onto the Nez Perce National Forest and is well established. Fire growth yesterday is estimated at 30,000 acres. Accurate mapping was prevented by weather conditions. The western edge of the fire is in the Berg and Little Berg Drainages and is well established on both sides of Allison Creek. To the east, well established spot fires are burning in Chamberlain Gulch and Flock Canyon.

Today’s efforts include holding and improving fire line along the southwest flank of the fire and to identify opportunities to construct indirect line to stop fire progression towards Riggins. Crews will also assist with structure protection along the Salmon River corridor. Firefighters and aerial resources will be assessing the fire’s growth that took place yesterday to determine the perimeter and search for spot fires that may have developed.

Firefighters are working closely with local law enforcement to escort rafters from the Vinegar Creek take out to Riggins as fire behavior and road conditions allows.

Weather

Higher humidity and cooler temperatures this morning will reduce fire activity. The inversion is expected to break around noon with an increased chance of thunderstorms and gusting winds from the southwest.

Evacuations

For further information on evacuations and notifications contact:

Adams County Sheriff: 208-253-4227

Idaho County Sheriff: Riggins, White Bird, Elk City areas: 800-922-9141; Grangeville and surrounding areas: 208-983-1100

Closures

The Nez Perce National Forest: Due to public safety concerns, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest officials have closed process of closing all Forest Service managed lands to human entry, EXCEPT the Palouse Ranger District. They request that: Recreationists currently on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests must relocate to areas outside of national forest system lands safely away from fire activity, and prospective Forest visitors should find alternate locations away from the Nez Perce-Clearwater national Forests at this time. Roadways are open for people leaving the Forest. For state and county road closures please contact your local sheriff’s office and the Idaho Transportation Department.

The Payette National Forest in the vicinity of Tepee Springs Fire is closed to public use. Hazard Campground is closed, Grouse Campground is closed, and Last Chance 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.

BLM : All BLM managed lands east of Hwy 95 between Riggins Idaho and the Smokey Boulder Road North of New Meadows and BLM managed land south of the Salmon River Road (NF-1614) east of Riggins Idaho to the Payette National Forest Boundary.

River Closure: The French Creek road (FS road 246) is currently closed due to fire activity. For those floaters that are coming out and the people that are shuttling them there is currently a pilot car that is leading vehicles to egress and ingress into Vinegar Creek as fire activity allows.

Food, water and support are being set up at Vinegar Creek if floaters are held due to fire activity that prevents them from safely being piloted from the area. All shuttles should be prepared to wait in Riggins. You will be allowed to enter when it is safe to travel into Vinegar Creek and you will be escorted into the area by a pilot car.

Please be patient this is ever-changing as the fire continues to spread. The safety of the public and firefighters is paramount.

Update (10:45 a.m.): The Campbells Fire south of the Salmon River is currently estimated at 7,576 acres. No new fires were reported on the Payette National Forests yesterday. From the Payette National Forest:

As of this morning there were no new fires reported and 7 fires we continue to manage. The Tepee Springs Fire, Rapid Fire, and Campbells Fire remain priorities for suppression efforts. Through the night the forest did receive lightning and precipitation in places.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in effect on the Payette National Forest. The following acts are prohibited: igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire outside a fire structure that is provided by the Forest Service within a designated area, and smoking outside an enclosed vehicle or building. Fire restrictions and maps are posted to Facebook.

The Campbells Fire is currently estimated at 7,576 acres. It is burning in Trout Creek, Moore Creek, Ruff Creek, and Fall Creek in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The fire now includes Burnt Knob and is showing the most growth in upper Trout Creek and onto Highline Ridge. Crews are providing protection for the bridge at Campbell’s Ferry as well as the Jim Moore place, and have installed pumps and hose lay around Lemhi Bar. The Chena Hotshot crew is working on assessing and prepping China Bar and Gaines Bar. Firefighters will also be setting up for structure protection at Chamberlain and Stonebraker Ranch. The Dillinger Fire is currently estimated at 6,233 acres. It is located 3 miles east of Dillinger Meadows in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The fire includes the area around Bruin Mountain and Rocky Point. This fire has seen significant growth in past couple of days. Today crews will be setting up structure protection at Arctic Lodge on the Main Salmon River. Both fires are currently being managed by a Local Type 3 Incident Management Team. A Forest Closure Order has been issued (see Facebook or inciweb for map and Closure Order). Additional information is available at (http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4521/)

Tepee Springs Fire information is available at (http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4506/)

The Rapid Fire information is available at (http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4522/)

Fires within the wilderness are being monitored by lookouts and aircraft.

Status update by fire is provided below for each district. Fires that are declared out from previous updates are no longer listed.

New Meadows Ranger District:

  1. Tepee Springs: (est. 79,570 ac) The fire is now 2 miles east of Riggins on the east side of Highway 95. Evacuations, pre-evacuation notifications, and Forest Closures are in effect. This fire is being managed by a Regional Incident Management Team (Great Basin Team 2).

McCall Ranger District:

  1. Rapid: (6,954 ac) Located south of Buckhorn Mountain and east of the Rapid Creek drainage, approximately 12 miles southeast of McCall. Forest Closure Order in effect. This fire is being managed by a Regional Incident Management Team (Dunfords Type 2 Team).
  2. Loon Creek: (1 ac) Located south of Loon Mountain, fire is burning in light fuels with a low potential to spread. Fire is being monitored.
  3. Porphyry: (.10 ac) Located west of Porphyry Creek in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Minimal Smoke is showing in the top of a snag. Fire is being monitored.

Krassel Ranger District:

  1. Campbells Fire: (7,576 ac) Burning in Trout Creek, Moore Creek, Ruff Creek, and Fall Creek in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness near Campbell’s Ferry on the Salmon River. Forest Closure Order in effect. This fire is being managed by a Local Fire Management Team (Cline Type 3 Team).
  2. Dillinger: (6,233 ac) Located 3 miles east of Dillinger Meadows in the Frank Church of No Return Wilderness. This fire has seen significant growth in the past couple of days. This fire is being managed by the Campbells Fire Local Fire Management Team (Cline Type 3 Team).
  3. Crescent Fire: (This fire was previously listed as Vines Fire) (10 ac) Located 6 miles east/northeast of Cabin Creek Guard Station in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. No growth in the last week. Fire is being monitored.
  4. Mosquito: (.25 to 0.50 ac) Located on the east side of Mosquito Ridge in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. No smoke showing at this time, no growth in the last week. Fire is being monitored.

Update (10:45 a.m.): As of 10 p.m. last night, the Slide Fire was 10,000 acres and burning along the north side of the Selway River, approximately 1.5 miles east the historic Fenn Ranger Station, which remains under Level 3 (mandatory) evacuation.

Update (11:15 a.m.): Fire managers across the area are still trying to figure out how much acreage burned during yesterday's windstorm. All fires in the Selway Complex grew significantly yesterday, triggering a Level 3 Evacuation Order for the town of Newsome, the movement of the fire spike camp at Sing Lee back to base camp, and the closure of most of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. South of Elk City, the Noble fire reached Mallard Creek Ranch. Here's the latest on the Baldy and Wash fires, from the Selway Complex IMT:

Background

The Baldy and Wash fires in the Selway Complex were caused by lightning strikes on August 10th and 13th in the Red River Ranger District of the Nez Perce - Clearwater National Forest near Elk City, Idaho. With dry conditions, gusty winds, steep terrain and a shortage of firefighting resources due to multiple fire starts and existing fires, the fires quickly grew. Fires are expected to be active until a significant, season-ending weather event occurs, which may not occur until mid/late October.

Wash Fire: Firefighters continued assessing structures in Elk City area. Seventeen people attended the public meeting at the McGuire Cabin in Orogrande, Idaho yesterday.

Due to high winds, there was significant growth on all fires in the complex. This growth triggered a Level 3 Evacuation Order for the town of Newsome, the movement of the fire spike camp at Sing Lee back to base camp, and the forest closure. The Noble fire reached Mallard Creek Ranch. Many structures in Mallard Creek had protection in place.

Point protection efforts focused on assessing, preparing and defending structures in the areas of Mallard Creek Ranch and Cook Ranch. Red River Community and structures along Dixie Road were also evaluated for protection needs.

Planned Events

Selway Complex Firefighters will continue preparation work around structures in the Elk City area. We will also monitor the fire and focus on protecting Newsome structures.

We will also be evaluating roads for opportunities for improvements that could be used to keep the fire away from Elk City, Red River and structures along Dixie Road.

Point protection efforts will continue with assessing possible damage and preparing structures in the areas of Mallard Creek Ranch, Cook Ranch, Red River Community, and along Dixie Road.

Road.Restrictions and Closures

Temporary flight restrictions are over the Wash and Baldy fires. The entire Nez Perce National Forest is closed due to fires, with the exception of the Palouse Ranger District. For more information, visit the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest web site.

Evacuations

A Level 2 Evacuation Alert has been issued for the Elk City area due to potential high winds and fire growth on both the Baldy and Wash Fires and increased fire activity south of Elk City. A Level 2 Evacuation means be ready. This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready at a moment's notice.

Level 3 evacuations are still in effect for Mallard Creek and Cook Ranches and Newsome.

Fire Weather

A cold front moved through the area yesterday. Today, winds will be 15 to 20 mph, with gust up to 35 mph from the south/southwest. Temperatures will be in the low 60's, relative humidity in the 45 to 50 range.

Smoke Concerns: Air quality continues to be unhealthy. For more information on current air quality conditions, visit http://airquality.deq.idaho.gov/. For information about mitigating smoke related health hazards, visit http://idsmoke.blogspot.com/p/smoke-and-health.html.

Update (11:30 a.m.): From the Clearwater-Municipal-Motorway North Complex IMT:

Incident size: 82956 acres.

Current Situation: 75% contained.

Number of personnel: 574

The wind event yesterday, with gusts up to 25 mph, did not breach any control lines or create any significant new fires within the complex. Fire managers received many calls reporting smoke, and one call turned out to be a new start on the Municipal Complex. The fire was southwest of Orofino, on Miller Road. Initial attack crews supporting Idaho Department of Lands were able to get a fireline around it quickly and contain it at nine acres. They will continue to mop up these areas today.

The windstorm tested firelines and blew ash off hot spots that had been smoldering for days. The amount of rain was minimal, but more is expected in some areas today. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures and a good chance for a wetting rain in some areas. This will help fire suppression efforts overall and eventually clear out the smoke in the valleys.

Five miles east of Pierce on the Motorway North Complex, crews continued to work on the Lost Hat and the Musselshell fires. Yesterday, erratic winds created dangerous conditions for crews assigned to the Lost Hat Fire. Falling trees threatened their safety, and they were reassigned to another portion of the incident. They will return to the fire today and continue mopping up and strengthening firelines. It will also be a good opportunity to evaluate the current dozer line and make improvements to secure it.

Some of the strongest winds occurred on the Clearwater Complex. Firefighters worked on hot spots and flareups behind residences in Kamiah. Access on the Carrot Ridge Road was impacted by a fallen tree.

Gusty winds also rekindled a few hot spots along Lower Ford Road near Orofino. No increase in fire activity occurred on the Fisher and Old Greer fires. Firefighters will continue to patrol and check on all the fires in the complex.

Due to public safety concerns, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest officials have closed a large swath of the forest for public use. The closures are listed at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices.

Information on the upcoming hunting seasons and areas with limited access may be found on the Idaho Fish and Game site: https://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/fire. The phone number is 208-344-3700.

The Idaho Transportation Department encourages travelers to plan ahead by logging on to 511.idaho.gov or dialing 5-1-1. Information on road closures is available 24 hours per day. Please contact ITD or your local county sheriff’s office for road conditions.

The Southern Area Blue Team continues to manage the Clearwater-Municipal-Motorway North Complex. Fire information updates will be issued under this name. Visit www.facebook.com/centralidahofires for information on Central Idaho fires or http://inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Update (11:30 a.m.): Elk City received 0.14 inches of rain and Red River received three-hundredths, but no rain was reported on the Salmon River in that area. From the Red River Ranger District:

A little precipitation over the north half of the District provided some welcome relief for both firefighters and concerned residents Saturday evening. Although certainly not suppressing any of our fires, it did slow fire behavior and activity. Elk City received .14 inch and Red River .03 inch, while no rain was reported on the Salmon River. Today’s temperatures should be cooler and relative humidity somewhat higher, with the possibility of wetting rain in most locations.

Fire activity was extreme on the Noble Fire Saturday, forcing firefighters to turn on pumps and avoid the rapidly advancing flaming front. After the front moved by, they reengaged and put out multiple spot fires around the structures. Two residences were lost, along with one or two outbuildings. An Idaho County Sheriff’s deputy has finished investigating the details and will report specific information to his dispatch office. Concerned Mallard Creek property owners can call 208-983-1100 for information. Last night’s IR (infrared) flight shows that fire at 3,200 acres.

All Forest land on the Red River Ranger District has been closed. A road block has been placed at the base of Mountain Idaho on State Highway 14 to turn away all but local traffic. Currently, residents are free to come and go on Highway 14.

The Red Team, the national incident management team assigned to the Selway Complex, will transition today with the District for management of the Noble, Crown and Lone Park Fires included in the Red River Complex. Future information on those fires will be provided by the Team’s information group. We will continue forwarding their updates, and additional information can be obtained by calling 877-367-9503. The Red River Complex Inciweb site will continue to be updated as well.

With the Red Team taking over the majority of our fires, we will have more resources available for initial attack of any new starts.

The Crown and Lone Park Fires have become well established north of the Magruder Road #468 and are impacting the road for about three miles east from 14-Mile Trailhead. The combined size of those fires is 26,517 acres. The Magruder Road is closed.

The Slaughter Fire west of Concord in the Gospel Hump Wilderness was relatively quiet Saturday, in part because it was shaded by the smoke column from the Tepee Springs Fire on the Salmon River east of Riggins. It is between 100 and 150 acres. General movement has been to the north-northeast. Firefighters will be in the Concord/Hump area today or Monday as visibility allows.

Saturday’s activity on the Rattlesnake Fire in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness was minimal as it crept up and down the Salmon River and toward the Sheep Hill Lookout on the top end. There was no significant acreage increase.

The Little Green Fire was somewhat active Saturday, with movement to the east toward Road #285. Structure protection remains at the Green Mountain Lookout.

The 120-acre Deadwood Fire near Summit Flats is 100% contained and in patrol status.

Information for the Campbells Fire south of the Salmon River on the Payette National Forest is available at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4521/#.

EVACUATION LEVELS:

• Mallard Creek Ranch, Cook Ranch and Newsome: Level 3

• Elk City and the Red River Area: Level 2

CLOSURES:

All of the Red River Ranger District is closed. Copies of all Forest closure orders are available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

For any questions relating to District fires, please contact the District Office at 208-842-2245. For questions about the Selway Complex and Red River Complex, call 877-367-9503 or email them at selwaycomplex2015@gmail.com.

SMOKE CONCERNS: Air quality continues to be unhealthy. For more information on current air quality conditions, visit http://airquality.deq.idaho.gov/ and http://app.airsis.com/USFS/fleet.aspx. For information about mitigating smoke related health hazards, visit http://idsmoke.blogspot.com/p/smoke-and-health.html.

IDAHO COUNTY EVACUATONS: The Idaho County Sheriff’s office has directed people to go to their Facebook page for evacuation information: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Idaho-County-Sheriffs-Office/178393728844032.

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