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Favorable weather moderates fire behavior

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | September 10, 2022 1:00 AM

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BONNERS FERRY — Fires in the Kootenai River Complex continued to grow Thursday, but their behavior has been tempered by the lighter winds and higher humidity.

The Eneas Peak, Trout, and Katka fires have seen relatively little growth, Andrew O'Neel, Boundary County public information officer and Emergency Manager director, said in a press release.

The Scotch and Russell Fires have grown together into one fire that will be called the Russell Fire.

The Katka Fire spotted about 100 yards north, which grew into a 1/2-acre spot fire. Fire managers are confident that the Katka Fire will not spread much due to the wetter fuel types it has to burn through, coupled with the more favorable wind and humidity, O'Neel said.

Fire behavior specialists say the Katka Fire could grow a little bit to the south/southwest through a saddle but expect it will not make a run based on fuel type, terrain and weather.

The Russell Fire, which now includes the former Scotch Fire, has been burning slowly down toward Westside Road and a finger, or off shoot, was expected Thursday Sept. 8 to contact the primary dozer line. This line is part of a series of defenses built over the past several days. Once it hits the line it is expected to burn out due to lack of fuel.

O’Neel told the Bonners Ferry Herald that as of Friday morning the fire behavior has diminished and is creeping slowly, but steady. He added that incident crews and fire support are ready.

Firefighters were at the ready the night of Sept. 8 on Westside Road with lots of resources, water, and heavy staffing, he said. They planned to mop up the fire as it slowly comes downhill and burns itself out, but Thursday night the fire never came.

As was expected, the fire behavior significantly decreased overnight, O’Neel said. The fire moved less than was anticipated. As of Friday morning the fire was still 100 yards from the dozer line.

O’Neel said the cold temperatures and no wind kept the fire from progressing last night. He added that there are no evacuations on Westside road as of yet and the chase of evacuations happening on Friday, Sept. 9 is minimal. Weather and temperatures affect fire behavior, he said.

At this time those on Westside Road As a precaution, the following “Ready, Set, GO!” pre-evacuation preparations are in place:

“Set” — Westside Road from the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge north to Farnham Creek, has been advised to be in the “Set” stage of evacuation preparation, to evacuate immediately if it becomes necessary due to the Scotch and Russell Mountain fires.

“Ready” — Westside Road north of Farnham Creek to Kerr Lake Road has been advised to be in the “Ready” stage of evacuation to begin evacuation planning for their families, pets and livestock due to the Eneas Peak Fire.

“Ready” — Katka Road up from the lookout area, Two-Tail Road, and Misty Mountain Road have been advised to be in the “Ready” stage of evacuation to begin evacuation planning for their families, pets and livestock due to the Katka Fire.

In addition, access to Westside Road traffic is being limited to residents of Westside Road for public and firefighter safety. Non-resident traffic will interfere with the numerous structure protection and firefighting activities occurring along the road and could hinder any evacuation operations, should they occur.

Dedicated structure protection teams have completed 100% of their preparations in coordination with homeowners on Westside Road and are ready just in case. Firefighters will continue managing the fire as it comes down slowly the ridge and makes contact with the fire line.

“There is no expectation that the fire will hit trigger points to warrant an evacuation today,” O’Neel said.

Due to limited resources the fire support efforts are focused on protecting things of value, such as houses, private timber, historical structures, watershed, culture resources and water intake, he said.

O’Neel added fire is a natural process.

As of Friday morning, the Kootenai River Complex fires have burned 17,376 acres.