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Storm ignites new fires, KOs Kamiah-area electricity once again

Wildfire was seen burning below Homestead Road east of Grangeville Wednesday night, Aug. 30.

Photo by David Rauzi
Wildfire was seen burning below Homestead Road east of Grangeville Wednesday night, Aug. 30.


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Air attack meets Dewey Fire, Aug. 30, 2017

After a thunderstorm moved through the populated front-country in Idaho County, fires were reported in the areas of Boles, Harpster, and Elk City, and electricity was reported out for some 1,200 in around Kamiah.

Idaho County Light & Power informed Facebook-friendly customers the wait for electricity to be restored to the area beyond Kamiah is expected to continue all night and into tomorrow morning, while the Avista Utilities website listed three outage areas affecting more than 1,200 customers in Kamiah proper with "estimated restoration" at 6 p.m. tomorrow.

The front-country fires were all listed as relatively small in preliminary information, while one new start in the federal forest known as Coolwater was listed at 30 acres at about 8:30 p.m., having grown considerably since ignition at about 5 p.m.

The Free Press reported on two fires last night, with the Yellow Bull Fire called "controlled" by the Idaho Department of Lands earlier today and a house fire in Grangeville having tapped the local fire crew late last night.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests noted firefighters were on high alert due to the "red flag" weather warning that was in effect this afternoon and evening. A 5 p.m. Aug. 30 news release from the Forest Service:

A Red Flag Warning is in effect from noon to 8:00 p.m. today across the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. Scattered thunderstorms will develop this afternoon and evening that are expected to bring gusty winds and lightning, with only isolated rain. Consequently, already attentive firefighters are on heightened alert for increased fire behavior, new fires and potential safety hazards associated with winds and lightning.

Stage 1 fire restrictions are in effect in the Grangeville Fire Restrictions Area, Riverbreaks, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and Uplands. The restrictions do not include wilderness areas. Visitors should know before you go: fire and closure information is posted on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests website at www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater. Information on fire restrictions across the state is located at http://www.idahofireinfo.com/.

Forest and Fire Management Staff considered the long-term effects of smoke in their decision to manage fires in the wilderness and roadless areas. Fire managers are working with air quality specialists to monitor smoke and potential impacts to communities. For current air quality in Idaho, visit http://www.deq.idaho.gov/air-quality/burning/current-wildfire-smoke-info/ and for Montana http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/smokereport/mostrecentupdate.aspx .

Current status by district:

Salmon River Ranger District

Management of the Hanover fire (18,610 acres) has transitioned to a local type 3 incident management organization under the command of Kevin Barger from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Infrared mapping and patrol shows that fire is backing somewhat northwest toward Boulder Creek. The perimeter did move out of the wilderness northeast of Marten Hill but then swung to the east and back into the wilderness. Activity on the east side of the fire remains west of Sheep Creek. This fire is being heavily patrolled and containment lines actively monitored. Two 20-person crews, three engines, a type 3 and a type 2 helicopter, and various pieces of heavy equipment remain assigned to the incident. The area closure has been modified. Information for the Hanover fire will continue to be available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5459/.

For more information on fire activity or closures on Salmon River Ranger District, call (208) 839-2211.

Lochsa/Powell Ranger District

The Hidden fire (7,909 acres), at Hidden Lake in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, saw slight growth in the Big Flat Creek drainage on the northeast side of the fire. There is also isolated heat with a few patches of scattered heat on the south half of the fire. It remains approximately one-half mile from the Idaho/Montana boundary. Trail closures remain in effect for the safety and protection of the public. Smoke is expected to impact the local area as well as the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys. For information on the Hidden fire or closures, call the Powell office at (208) 942-3113.

The Glover fire (10-15 acres), 3.5 miles east of Coolwater Lookout, is active with movement to the east and west. Fire managers anticipate closure of Trail 206 to Trail 133. The Old Man fire (now 20-25 acres), one mile east of Old Man Point in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is creeping in brush and moving downhill. Both fires are being managed for resource benefits. For information on these fires, call the Kooskia office at (208) 926-4274.

Crews on the Lolo Peak fire have conducted a successful burnout operation on the northeast side of the Powell Ranger District near Elk Meadows. The burnout reinforced existing firelines on the west perimeter of the Lolo Peak fire utilizing Forest Service road 5903. Crews assigned to the Lolo Peak fire will continue to patrol and monitor the area.

Moose Creek Ranger District

The Sparrow fire is out at .1 acre. The Falls fire (29 acres) continues to burn in the Falls Creek drainage, but remains within the containment line.

No significant activity has occurred Tuesday on the fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The significant wilderness fires include: Buck Lake fire (1,086 acres); Moose Creek 1 fire (14,344 acres); Lone Pine fire (7,302 acres); Chute Creek fire (2,460 acres); Tony fire (438 acres); Pettibone fire (307 acres); Mink Peak fire (821 acres); Lonesome fire (5 acre). Infrared mapping of these fires is expected to occur tonight if weather conditions permit. That mapping will tell more about the growth of these fires. Fire mangers continue to communicate with the Bitterroot National Forest regarding fires with potential to move onto that forest.

These wilderness fires are being monitored by air. Various identified values at risk continue to be under point protection, including lookouts and bridges. An area closure and trail closures remain in effect. Visitors recreating on the Selway River should expect to see smoke and fire in the area and should use caution, watching for falling trees and other hazards.

For more information on fire activity or area closures on the Moose Creek Ranger District, call (208) 926-4258.

Red River Ranger District

Visitors to the Red River Ranger District wanting to travel the Magruder Corridor Road, Forest Road 468 (a/k/a Nez Perce Road) to Darby, Montana, are advised that there is no through traffic. The road has been closed by virtue of fire activity on the Nelson Creek fire. The closure is approximately 4 miles west of the road’s junction with the West Fork Road (Montana State Highway 473). For more information about the Nelson Creek fire and closure, see InciWeb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5549/.

The Bat fire (1.5 acre), 1.5 miles east of Big Mallard Creek Trailhead is controlled and some of the firefighters are hiking out today. On Thursday, a pack string will transport out more firefighters, equipment and supplies.

The Patrol Ridge fire (580 acres), 4.5 miles east of Windy Saddle, continues steady growth around the perimeter, including north toward the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Minimal fire activity is seen on wilderness fires on the district. Significant wilderness fires include: the Plummer fire (estimated 200 acres), east of the Hanover fire; the Rattlesnake Point fire (4,626 acres) between Rattlesnake Creek and Sabe Creek on the Salmon River which continue to have minimal growth to the north toward Rattlesnake Point and along Trail #577; and the Bleak fire (182 acres) north of Sheep Hill Lookout. No infrared mapping flights have occurred for some time, so these acreages are estimates. An area closure and trail closures remain for the safety and protection of the public.

For more information on fire activity or area closures on the Red River Ranger District, call (208) 842-2245.

For fire information on Hanover, Moose Creek 1, Rattlesnake Point, Lone Pine, Mink Peak, Chute, and Hidden fires, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/13/# .

UPDATE (8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30): Idaho Department of Lands reports the Dewey Fire (now 25 acres) burning eight miles northeast of Grangeville continues to threaten structures tonight. From IDL:

Fire crews are currently battling a fire eight miles northeast of Grangeville that is threatening structures.

The Dewey Fire is about 25 acres and is directly across the South Fork of the Clearwater River from the community of Harpster. It is burning on steep slopes in timber and brush.

Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is being assisted by the US Forest Service Locsha Ranger District and the Harpster Rural Fire Department. Type 3 Incident Commander Keith Brink from the IDL is in charge of the fire. There are currently three engines plus rural resources on the fire. Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) were able to drop retardant before winds made it unsafe for aircraft to fly. A request has been made for additional resources, however, with the many fires burning in Idaho and surrounding states, it is unknown if those requests will be filled.

The fire is lightning caused and was spotted by a Harpster resident at 4:30 p.m. Strong winds have made the battling the blaze difficult.

The Maggie Creek and Craig Mountain Fire Protection Districts have battled more than a dozen fires in the past 24 hours. There have been 25 fires throughout the IDL Fire Protection Districts statewide.

UPDATE (9:45 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 31): Avista's outage information map lists power as mostly restored in the Kamiah area, and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests noted power had been restored at the supervisor's office as of 9 a.m. In total, 1,400 Avista customers were without power last night, as a second consecutive night of severe weather damaged seven "transmission structures -- Avista's term for power poles along with their cross-pieces that keep power lines off the ground. Avista also noted crews from Clarkston, Pullman, Grangeville and Spokane worked to restore power, as local crews were tapped out by the Tuesday night storm. The outage map now lists as many as 15 are still without power in the Kamiah area.

UPDATE (10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 31): Idaho Department of Lands has revised its estimate of the size of the Dewey Fire and is now calling the burned area 15 acres, rather than the 25 the agency stated in a news release last night. Per IDL, multiple structures are still at risk, and response includes 11 vehicles and a hand crew plus rural firefighting resources, with the Forest Service to provide air support "as needed." From IDL:

Fire crews continue to battle the 15-acre Dewey Fire, located fire eight miles northeast of Grangeville near Harpster. Multiple structures are still threatened by the fire that is burning on steep slopes in timber and brush.

Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is being assisted by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Service and the Harpster Rural Fire Department. Type 3 Incident Commander Keith Brink from the IDL is in charge of the fire. There are currently 6 engines, 2 dozers, 3 water tenders, and 1 hand crew, plus rural resources on the fire. A helicopter and Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) are available as needed throughout the day.

SEATs dropped retardant last evening before winds made it unsafe for aircraft to fly. Those aerial drops along with rain and subsiding wind helped slow the fire’s progress.

The fire is still at 0 percent containment. It is lightning caused and was spotted by a Harpster resident at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 30.

UPDATE (noon Thursday, Aug. 31): What the Free Press previously reported as a single new start last night called Coolwater is actually a number of fire starts now totaling about 70-80 acres on the north and south sides of Coolwater Ridge, 4-5 miles east of Coolwater Lookout, a Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests fire information spokesperson said Thursday morning. "Phone service is currently out at Moose Creek," public information officer Vickie Guthrie said, explaining that further details are not yet available. "We had relatively few new fires start last night, but the Red River Ranger District was hit hard."

Guthrie noted that of seven new fire starts, four have been contained, two are lined and one -- the Aardvark Fire on Simmons Ridge 7-8 miles east of the Elk City township -- is being "worked hard," she said.

UPDATE (5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31): The Forest Service released the following update on fires now burning in the four local ranger districts. From the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests:

Lightning activity across the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Wednesday resulted in numerous new fires and reports of new fires. Staffed lookouts and aerial reconnaissance will be busy today as they attempt to identify new starts. With resources stretched, fire managers are tasked with prioritizing placement of personnel and equipment. For instance, a district that received no lightning activity will be asked to share firefighters, engines, and so on, with districts that have or expect to have more initial response activity.

Stage 1 fire restrictions are in effect in the Grangeville Fire Restrictions Area, Riverbreaks, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and Uplands. The restrictions do not include wilderness areas. Visitors should know before you go: fire and closure information is posted on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests website at www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater. Information on fire restrictions across the state is located at http://www.idahofireinfo.com/.

Forest and Fire Management Staff considered the long-term effects of smoke in their decision to manage fires in the wilderness and roadless areas. Fire managers are working with air quality specialists to monitor smoke and potential impacts to communities. For current air quality in Idaho, visit http://www.deq.idaho.gov/air-quality/burning/current-wildfire-smoke-info/ and for Montana http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/smokereport/mostrecentupdate.aspx .

Current status by district:

Salmon River Ranger District

Wednesday the Hanover fire (20,221 acres) had some increased fire activity on the north side where it pushed to Umbrella Butte, but favorable winds kept it moving into the wilderness. Activity on the northwest side of the fire into Boulder Creek was minimal. The west and south edges of the fire were quiet Thursday, and activity remains west of Sheep Creek on the east side This fire is being heavily patrolled and containment lines actively monitored. Two 20-person crews, three engines, a type 3 and a type 2 helicopter, and various pieces of heavy equipment remain assigned to the incident. Information for the Hanover fire is available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5459/.

Three new fires have been staffed: the Center Ridge fire (approx. 250 acres), the Johnson Ridge fire (1 acre), and the Squaw fire (.25 acre) two miles northeast of Bald Mountain. Firefighters are working to suppress the fires, supported by aerial water drops. Reports of additional fires are being investigated.

For more information on fire activity or closures on Salmon River Ranger District, call (208) 839-2211.

Lochsa/Powell Ranger District

The Andys Hump fire (estimated 70-80 acres), 4 miles east of Coolwater Lookout, is burning in timber and brush on the north and south sides of Coolwater Ridge. The Glover fire (25-30 acres), 3.5 miles east of Coolwater Lookout, is burning slowly north-northeast. A closure order is in effect for a portion of the Eagle Mountain Trail #206 and one is expected for a segment of Road #317 in the vicinity of the Coolwater Lookout. The Old Man fire (25-30acres), one mile east of Old Man Point in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is moving downhill in brush. All of these fires are being managed for resource benefit, utilizing point protection strategies. For information on these fires, call the Kooskia office at (208) 926-4274.

An additional closure order has been implemented for approximately two miles of Packers Meadow Road #373 from the Idaho/Montana border. Crews assigned to the Lolo Peak fire will continue to patrol and monitor the area of an earlier burnout.

Fire activity was moderated Wednesday on the Hidden fire (approx. 7,909 acres), at Hidden Lake in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, due to an inversion over the area most of the day. Winds produced by afternoon thunderstorms did not hit the fire area. The fire remains approximately one-half mile from the Idaho/Montana boundary. Trail closures remain in effect for the safety and protection of the public. Smoke is expected to impact the local area as well as the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys. For information on the Hidden fire or closures, call the Powell office at (208) 942-3113.

Moose Creek Ranger District

One new fire at Donner Point has been staffed. Firefighters are completing line and will install hose lays today in efforts to suppress the fire. The Falls fire (29 acres) continues to burn in the Falls Creek drainage, but remains within the containment line.

Significant fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness include: Buck Lake fire (2,316 acres) pushed nearly a mile to the east, with short-range spotting to the east; Moose Creek 1 fire (14,858 acres); Lone Pine fire (10,152 acres) has merged with both the Mink Peak and Tony fires and continues to move east towards Moose Ridge and northeast toward the Selway River and the Moose Creek 1 fire; Chute Creek fire (approx. 2,460 acres); Pettibone fire (approx.. 307 acres); Lonesome fire (6 acre). Fire mangers continue to communicate with the Bitterroot National Forest regarding fires with potential to move onto that forest.

These wilderness fires are being monitored by air. Various identified values at risk continue to be under point protection, including lookouts and bridges. An area closure and trail closures remain in effect. Visitors recreating on the Selway River should expect to see smoke and fire in the area and should use caution, watching for falling trees and other hazards.

For more information on fire activity or area closures on the Moose Creek Ranger District, call (208) 926-4258.

Red River Ranger District

Seven fires were reported and staffed Wednesday. The Flat Iron fire, the Stag fire; the Mike fire, and the Red Horse fire are all contained. Firefighters have lined the French fire, 3 miles southeast of Elk City, and the Blanco fire, 5 miles north of the Red River administrative site. The Aardvark fire (.25 acre), 8 miles east of Elk City on Simmons Ridge is staffed and being suppressed with the assistance of aerial water drops. The Bat fire is out.

The Patrol Ridge fire (580 acres), 4.5 miles east of Windy Saddle, continues steady growth around the perimeter, including north toward the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Minimal fire activity is seen on wilderness fires on the district. The Rattlesnake Point fire (approx. 4,626 acres) between Rattlesnake Creek and Sabe Creek on the Salmon River continues to have minimal growth to the north toward Rattlesnake Point and along Trail #577. Due to lack of significant growth over the past weeks, this will be the last report for the Bleak fire (182 acres) north of Sheep Hill Lookout and the Plummer fire (estimated 200 acres), east of the Hanover fire. An area closure and trail closures remain for the safety and protection of the public.

Visitors to the Red River Ranger District wanting to travel the Magruder Corridor Road, Forest Road 468 to Darby, Montana, are advised that there is no through traffic. The road is closed by due to fire activity on the Nelson Creek fire. The road is closed 4 miles west of its junction with the West Fork Road (Montana State Highway 473). For more information about the Nelson Creek fire and closure, see InciWeb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5549/.

For more information on fire activity or area closures on the Red River Ranger District, call (208) 842-2245.

For fire information on Hanover, Moose Creek 1, Rattlesnake Point, Lone Pine, Mink Peak, Chute, and Hidden fires, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/13/.

UPDATE (10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1): The Idaho Department of Lands anticipates the Dewey Fire will be controlled by the end of the day today. From IDL:

Overnight fire crews continued to battle the 15-acre Dewey Fire, located eight miles northeast of Grangeville near the town of Harpster. Multiple structures are still threatened by the fire that is burning on steep slopes in timber and brush. While acreage was previously reported to be larger, daylight and more accurate mapping provided a truer figure.

With the aid of partners from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Service and the Harpster Rural Fire Department, crews from the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), Lolo Hotshots and Red Hots were able to hold the perimeter overnight and are expected to have the fire controlled by the end of shift today. Helicopter and Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) water drops during the day helped slow the fire’s progress allowing for safe direct attack by fire crews on the ground.

There are currently 6 engines, 3 water tenders, 2 hand crews, plus rural fire resources assigned. The fire is still 0 percent contained. The lightning caused fire was reported by a Harpster resident at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 30.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1): The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests now note the Magruder Corridor Road, Forest Road 468, is open clear to Darby, Montana.

The Free Press will publish further information on the fires and outages as information becomes available. Check back for updates.



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