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Crews plan for direct attack on fire

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 12, 2023 1:00 AM

After Monday's storm put a halt to their efforts, helicopter crews dropping water on the Bee Top Fire got back to work Tuesday.

The cold front which brought strong winds, rain and lightning to the region kept the fire crews in the lower elevations, Idaho Panhandle National Forest officials said.

Reported July 1, the lightning-sparked fire has burned 37 acres and is listed at 16% contained. A total of 151 fire personnel are assigned to the fire; there are two engines, three helicopters and four hand crews assigned to the Bee Top Fire.

Kept to the lower elevations by the storm, crews laid hose and improved the fireline along Lightning Creek. Tuesday, with indirect wirelines completed, INPF officials said crews can now turn their attention to attacking the fire directly. However, firefighter safety remains the top priority of both the IPNF and the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 9 which is leading the firefighting efforts.

"Direct attack on a steep and rugged slope poses significant risk and this shift in tactics was driven by what crews see on the ground," Kory Johnson, the fire's public information officer, said in a press release.

While short-term risks will increase due to challenges posed by the terrain, a direct attack will likely to shorten the fire's duration of the fire, reducing the number of firefighters exposed to hazards, and the time of exposure.

"This strategic change will accomplish the primary objective of protecting the community of Clark Fork," Johnson said.

A P-line, a saw line used to get in and out of hard-to-reach spots, is being built by the Plumas Interagency Hotshot Crew. That line will take firefighters from the mid-slope camp to the west to scout areas above the fire for a helicopter landing zone.

The Mad River IHC will build an anchor in the fire perimeter on the south blank while the Boise IHC will improve the indirect fireline along Lightning Creek.

Consalus Fire

Fire managers will be getting a few more resources to help fight the lightning-caused Consalus Fire, located on the Priest River Ranger District.

The fire, reported June 30, has burned 186 acres and is listed at 8% contained. A total of 140 fire personnel are assigned to the fire, located 10 miles west of Coolin in Pend Oreille County, Wash. There are two engines, three-plus hand crews, faller, water tender and ambulance crews assigned to the fire.

Fire managers have ordered additional resources, including the Grangeville Interagency Type 2 IA and the Flathead IHC.

"These crews will bolster efforts already being made by the heavy equipment, engines, and hand crews currently working on the fire," fire officials said in an update on the fire.

While a Type I helicopter was grounded by the storm, air resources will continue to assist crews with water drops to cool the fire's edge.

Crews worked Monday to mop-up along the fire's southwestern perimeter; now heavy equipment will shift to its south side of the fire to build a fire line.

The faller module of highly trained sawyers cleared snags from the fire's north edge, allowing access for crews to secure the fire's northeast side.

In addition, fire managers are scouting for opportunities to build lines closer to the fire's edge where they can fight the fire directly.

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