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Crews make gains on area fires

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 11, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Scooper planes and helicopters are doing their job — cooling the Bee Top Fire's interior and allowing crews to safely build an indirect fireline near the ridge top.

The fire, located 5 miles up Lightning Creek Road, has burned 37 acres and is listed at 16% contained. A total of 148 fire personnel are assigned to the fire, located on the Sandpoint Ranger District. There are two engines, three helicopters and four hand crews assigned to the fire.

Idaho Panhandle National Forests officials said crews finished laying along the Lightning Creek indirect fireline Sunday. The line runs northeast from the fire to an avalanche chute east of the fire.

In addition, an indirect line on the southwestern ridge was connected from the river bottom to a temporary camp for fire crews located mid-ridge.

With the potential for severe weather Monday, fire crews were pulled from the camp as a safety precaution on Sunday, IPNF officials said.

The potential for unsettled weather could impact fire operations in the short term. Monday's efforts were expected to focus on holding and improving indirect firelines and completing the last portion of handline to the ridgetop if crews are safely able to do so, officials said.

Initial attack crews are working to assess area homes to determine preparation needs and minimize damage to structures in the Clark Fork community, INPF officials said.

Crews are taking care near several sites, some due to their archaeological importance and others because they are near bull trout habitat.

"There are some archaeological sites within the fire area that crews are taking care not to disturb," officials said. "These culturally sensitive locations are areas where Native American performed ceremonial activities. Crews are also working to protect bull trout habitat, installing screens to keep bull trout from entering hose intakes."

Consalus Fire

Several hand crews, heavy equipment, and aircraft are working to bring the Consalus Fire under control, IPNF officials said.

The fire is located 10 miles west of Coolin in Pend Oreille County, Wash. The lightning strike-caused fire has burned 189 acres and is listed at 8% contained. A total of 129 fire personnel are assigned to the fire, located on the Priest River Ranger District. There are two engines, three-plus hand crews, faller, water tender and ambulance crews assigned to the fire.

A dozer line has been completed on the west and north sides of the fire, with crews laying hose and installing water tanks with pumps along the lines. In addition, crews are building a fireline on the fire's southwest side.

Helicopters and scooper planes dropped water Sunday to cool the fire's edge, helping firefighters safely engage the fire. Air resources will continue to support the crews on the ground with water drops as needed.

However, snags (standing dead trees) continue to be a safety issue, IPNF officials said.

"Crews cannot engage where the risk of falling trees is significant," they said in a press release. "A faller module of highly trained sawyers will begin to clear snags in some areas to make it safer for firefighters to continue to work."

Road and trail closures

• Bee Top Fire — There are no closures listed.

• Consalus Fire — There are no closures listed. However, the public is asked to avoid FSR 1094 and FSR 659 in their entirety; FSR 1108 (from the junction with FSR 333 to the junction with FSR 659), and FSR 312 (from the junction with FSR 333), and FSR 333 (from Highway 57 to the junction with FSR 1108).

Information: inciweb.nwcg.gov

photo

(Photo courtesy USDA FOREST SERVICE)

An aerial view of the Bee Top Fire taken on Sunday, July 9.