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Panhandle fire update for Sept. 15

by BY CHANSE WATSON/Hagadone News Network
| September 14, 2022 7:05 PM

With the recent precipitation which moved through the panhandle, wildland fire crews received some much-needed help on the many firelines they are currently working.

As of Sept. 14, Idaho Panhandle National Forests Fire Public Affairs officer Kary Maddox explained that there are four major incidents that crews are still working to contain and control.

The largest incident, collectively known as the Kootenai River Complex, comprises both the Katka and Russell Mountain Fires that continue to burn northwest of Bonners Ferry.

To the southwest of that complex, just across the Idaho/Washington border, the Diamond Watch Fire continues to burn and send smoke into the panhandle.

On the Idaho/Montana border in Shoshone County to the east/northeast of Murray, crews also continue to fight both the Columbus and Bear Gulch fires.

With the smoke from the local wildfires combining with smoke from larger fires in the southern areas of the state, air quality for much of the panhandle has hovered between the Moderate and Unhealthy categories for several days. Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry spent much of Wednesday in the Unhealthy and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range, causing the cancellation or postponement of numerous outdoor activities.

Kootenai River Complex

Size: 20,742 acres

Completion: 79%

Personnel: 369

Current Status: The Katka and Russell Mountain Fires continue to burn as low-intensity ground fires. Crews thinned vegetation along Westside Road north of Trout Creek Road. On the east end of Trout Creek Road, firefighters held the flames at the road so the fire could back slowly downhill on the north side. South of Trout Creek Road to Ball Creek Road, crews continued to hold and suppress the fire as it reached the fireline and Westside Road. The overnight infrared detection flight was able to fly over the fire area and show an increase in size of 1,034 acres.

Planned Actions: The preparation work to thin vegetation along parts of Westside Road will continue today preparing to make the roadside more defensible for when the fire reaches the area. Crews continue to strengthen the fireline and run the pumps and sprinklers to make sure that the private structures are prepared for when the fire arrives. The fire is expected to continue backing downhill towards the Westside Road and fireline. The Katka Fire will be monitored. Helicopters are available to be used for water delivery as needed however, smoke conditions might prevent flying like the past two days.

Closures: Due to active fires and fire suppression activities, Westside Road is restricted to residents only. Additionally, the following National Forest Trails are now closed: Ball Creek Road (FR 432), Trout Creek Road (FR 634), Russell Mountain (No. 12), Russell Ridge (No. 92), Ball and Pyramid Lakes (No. 43), Pyramid Pass (No. 13), Pyramid Peak (No. 7), Fisher Peak (No. 27), Trout Lake (No. 41), McGinty Ridge (No. 143), Clifty Mountain and Clifty/Burrow (No. 182), Myrtle Peak Trail (No. 286), and Burton Peak Trail (No. 9).

Evacuations: There are NO Evacuations currently in place. However, those living on Westside Road closest to Ball Creek, Burton Creek, and Clark Creek have been placed in the SET fire evacuation status. SET is the stage of readiness before an actual evacuation takes place.

Diamond Watch Fire

Size: 1,036 acres

Containment: 49%

Personnel: 21

Current Status: Moderate fire behavior. Some areas of minimal single tree torching, with the majority of fire backing and creeping.

Planned Actions: Firecrews will continue to monitor the fire edge as it approaches FS road 308. They will take action to keep the fire from crossing roads on the South, East, West, and Diamond Creek on the North.

Columbus Fire

Size: 1,806 acres

Personnel: 24

Current Status: Moderate fire behavior with backing, isolated torching and flanking.

Bear Gultch Fire

Size: 144 acres

Personnel: 7

Current Status: Minimal fire behavior with creeping, smoldering and backing.

Planned Actions: Helispot construction, ingress and egress work.

photo

COURTESY PHOTO/USFS

A Type 1 Skycrane helicopter drops water on the Katka fire during the initial attack on the blaze.

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