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Drone intrusion shuts down air support

Rattlesnake Creek Fire: 8,000 acres at 28 percent containment

Incident Commander Alan Sinclair addressed a crowd of about 50 at Salmon River High School last Friday night, Aug. 17, about the work done and the work still to be done to contain the large fire burning eight miles southwest of Riggins. The fire was listed as 8,135 acres in size and worked by 408 personnel as of Tuesday morning, Aug. 21.

Credit: Inciweb
Incident Commander Alan Sinclair addressed a crowd of about 50 at Salmon River High School last Friday night, Aug. 17, about the work done and the work still to be done to contain the large fire burning eight miles southwest of Riggins. The fire was listed as 8,135 acres in size and worked by 408 personnel as of Tuesday morning, Aug. 21.



With a rush of lightning Friday night, 27 new wildfires sprang up in the Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center’s coverage area and, including smoke checks, 47 incidents were reported in the region Aug. 17-20. Firefighting efforts and a bit of rain had limited all but five of these to less than an acre, as of 10 a.m. Monday morning. Not one was listed as more than 20 acres, and all were still under local management by agencies including the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, Idaho Department of Lands, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association.

The Rattlesnake Creek Fire remained the only fire in the area under national management. A Type 1 incident management team took over decision-making last week, but on Monday morning, Aug. 20, the fire size was listed at nearly 8,000 acres. Containment – listed as 43 percent early last week – was downgraded to 28 percent. The fire’s advance flanked containment lines at its southwest edge, triggering an evacuation (“Go”) notice for the Hillman Basin and Boulder areas. “Be Set” pre-evacuation notices remain in effect for North Pollock, Elk Lake and Pinehurst.

Air support for the firefighting effort was temporarily called off Sunday due to a violation of flight restrictions by what the IMT called a UAS (unmanned aircraft system) or a drone, and on Tuesday morning, the IMT reported another drone incursion had disrupted supply lines to remote camps established earlier in the week.

“Late yesterday, a third drone intrusion into the area under a temporary flight restriction caused the helicopters that were delivering food for the firefighters on White Bird Ridge to return to the helibase,” the incident management team reported Aug. 21. “A packer and mulestring will begin supplying the spike camps on White Bird Ridge.”

The IMT’s Monday morning status update called for firefighters “spiking out” to work a remote section of direct line along White Bird Ridge between Pollock Mountain and the county line.

“With the help of aviation resources, crews will continue to secure direct line on White Bird Ridge between Pollock Mountain and the Adams/Idaho county line as long as lightning does not threaten their exposed position,” the IMT said in its morning update, which can be read in full on Inciweb, at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5999.



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