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Efforts continue on Bee Top Fire

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 7, 2023 1:00 AM

A Northern Rockies incident management team has taken command of the Bee Top Fire.

The lightning-caused fire was reported Saturday; it has burned 32 acres and is located about 5 miles northeast of Clark Fork in the Lightning Creek drainage. There are 61 fire crews assigned to the fire.

"… [S]mokejumpers, helicopters and repel crews were inserted to suppress the fire," Northern Rockies Team 9 incident commander Shane Martin said in a press release. "After two days of attempting to attack the fire directly, these personnel were pulled back for safety concerns due to the extremely steep and rugged nature of the terrain the fire is located in."

With firefighter safety as the top priority, Northern Rockies Team 9 incident commander Shane Martin said hotshot crews were brought in to construct indirect containment line in the timber along the ridge line to the southwest of the fire.

The Plumas and Boise Interagency Hotshot crews have been working on this for the past four days. They were joined in the effort by the Mad River Hot Shot crew, which arrived Wednesday evening.

"This containment line will serve as an anchor on the southwestern edge of the fire and will be the primary fire line impeding the fire’s movement toward the community of Clark Fork," Johnson said.

Crews also are working to improve helicopter landing zones; once complete, the spots will allows crews to be inserted near the fire's upper elevations.

Once in place, IMT officials said the crews will work to improve the fireline from the top and middle areas of the ridge to the lower areas. The goal, they said, is to connect with a fireline constructed from the valley floor.

In addition to serving as a way to gain access to the fires, IMT officials said the landing zones will also serve as extradition points for emergency medical aircraft in the event they are needed.

There are two Type 1 helicopters providing bucket drops on the fire as well as two water scoopers being shared in the area.

"These aircraft will slow fire progression and allow crews time and space to continue building indirect fireline,"

At the moment, Martin said fire behavior on the Bee Top is minimal with some creeping, backing and flanking seen. Much of the fire is burning in heavy brush and timber.

Northern Rockies IMT 9 officials advised the public to use caution. In addition, residents should check InciWeb, an online interagency fire information database, for the latest fire information before recreating in the area.

A community meeting is planned for Friday to update residents on the fire. The meeting is set for 2 p.m. at Clark Fork High School, 502 N. Main St.

On the nearby Priest Lake Ranger District, the Consalus Fire has burned an estimated 140 acres. There are 91 personnel assigned to the lightning-caused fire, which was reported June 30.

The fire, located in Pend Oreille County, Wash., is located about 10 miles west of Coolin. It is burning in heavy dead and down timber, Idaho Panhandle National Forest officials said.

A 10-person district team, three 20-person crews, a Type 1 helicopter, a dozer and an excavator are engaged in direct suppression efforts, according to IPNF data.

Information: Bee Top Fire, bit.ly/BeeTopFire; Consalus Fire, bit.ly/ConsalusFire