Red flag warnings were in effect across most of North Central Idaho and Western Montana Monday, July 19, for thunderstorm activity and associated high winds. Firefighting has been fully engaged for three weeks, which has Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests leadership looking for the best ways to address fatigue. This involves outside firefighting resources to bolster local capacity, during this earlier-than-normal fire season.
As smaller fires are contained and controlled, managers are attempting to rotate ground and aviation resources through rest and recovery days while maintaining coverage for current fires and initial attack response.
“Based on the current and forecasted conditions, we are anticipating a very long fire season,” said Barry Ruklic, deputy fire staff officer for the combined forests. “Managing firefighter fatigue is integral to continuing our mission of protecting life and property during this already busy fire season.”
This is in addition to the efforts already being made in response to several large fires in the region which have already been handed over to federal IMTs (incident management teams), including the Dixie and Jumbo fires south of Elk City.
The Dixie Fire had been listed at more than 29,000 acres as of Monday night, with 424 personnel involved in that firefighting effort.
As of last update, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests firefighters from the Salmon River Ranger District were able to contain an accidental human-caused fire at 30 acres in the Twin Bridges area near U.S. Highway 95 with a quick response before it could move up the dry, steep, river-breaks terrain of the Salmon River Canyon. The fire was controlled late Sunday night and was declared out Monday morning after a thorough patrol.
The combined forests’ Red River Ranger District was still contending with the Lynx Fire, 100 acres located 23 miles east of Elk City. Fire managers were still in the process of assessing potential structure protection needs in the vicinity as of Monday.
Within the Red River district boundaries, Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team is managing the Dixie and the Jumbo fires, located approximately 15 miles south of Elk City. An area closure order remains in effect for these fires, and details about that and other aspects of this fire are online at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7608 or on the dedicated @DixieJumboFire Facebook page.
The combined forests’ Lochsa Ranger District firefighters were engaged with the Weaver Fire, 2 acres located 3 miles southeast of Pierce. This fire was started by lightning. Engine and handcrews were as of Monday engaged in full suppression operations due to its proximity to the community of Pierce, as well as state and private timber ground. These crews were working to get containment of this fire in anticipation of forecasted weather and associated winds.
Also in the Lochsa district, the Weitas Butte fire was approximately 1 acre one mile north of Weitas Butte Lookout. Structure protection for the lookout and road/trail closures may be implemented due to this fire.
Also in the Lochsa district, the Snow Creek Fire located 15 miles east-northeast of Kamiah was estimated at 550 acres as of Monday. The firefighting effort there involved substantial commitments: 3 engines, 1 handcrew, 1 wildland fire module, 2 heavy equipment task forces, 4 initial attack modules and 10 overhead, and as of Monday were engaged in the fire suppression effort, aiming to reduce the impacts of fire on private lands and protect structures. Firefighters continued to construct lines adjacent to Elk Ridge Subdivision and were successful with burnout operations to halt fire spread to the south and west. Road closure orders are in effect for this fire.
Also in the Lochsa district, response to the Bald Mountain Fire, 110 acres just north of Castle Butte Lookout near Forest Service road #500, has structure protection in place for the lookout and repeater site. This fire is currently unstaffed due to higher priority fires elsewhere. A road and trail closure order is in effect.
Also in the Lochsa district, the Rocky 2 Fire, 35 acres located near Rocky Ridge Lake on the Lolo Motorway, FS Road #500, is unstaffed at this time due to higher priority fires. A road and trail closure order is in effect for this fire.
In the Lochsa district, the Greenside Butte Fire, 208 acres located 8 miles southwest of Fish Lake Airstrip in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is also unstaffed due to higher priorities. Structure protection for Horse Camp Cabin is in place.
In the combined forests’ Powell Ranger District, the Storm Creek Fire, 3500 acres 9 miles southeast of Powell, has been assigned a 10-person Wildland Fire Module. Structure protection for the Colt Killed pack bridge is complete. Structure protection for Elk Summit Guard Station is in progress.
Also in the Powell district, the Lonesome Fire, 170 acres 35 miles east of Headquarters is actively burning, as are the Army Mule (600 acres), Monroe Lake (161 acres), Ashpile Peak (1-2 acres), and Porphyry (75 acres) fires. These last four are all burning in remote or wilderness areas, while the Lonesome Fire is near a combined forests project area. These fires are being monitored by lookouts and are unstaffed due to higher priority fires.
Also in the Powell district is part of the Granite Pass Complex, which includes the Shotgun Fire in Idaho as well as several fires in Montana, chiefly the Lolo Creek Fire. A Type 2 IMT assumed command of this complex on Sunday morning. The combined acreage was 1,702 acres with zero containment as of Monday. The speed limit on Highway 12 from Spring Gulch to the top of the pass has been reduced to 45 mph for public and firefighter safety. Closure orders are in place.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have a fire information hotline, 208-494-1661, staffed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily for general forest closure questions and general fire information questions. Specific questions on fires managed by the IMTs will be directed to call that specific fire’s information number. The public may call their local district ranger’s office for closure information. Official forest closure orders are referenced below for multiple fires.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests website for details of the Stage II Fire Restrictions and official closure orders is http://www.fs.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices. Temporary flight restrictions are in place over fire areas for the safety of the public and aerial firefighting resources. These restrictions also apply to unmanned aircraft systems (drones).
See the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests website, https://bit.ly/NPCFireInfo, or facebook.com/NPClwNFs, or twitter.com/NPClwNFs, or the forest’s official mobile app (search “Nez Perce Clearwater” in your app store).
Report all wildfires to the Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center, 208-983-6800, or call 911.