Crews battle Consalus, Bee Top fires
Firefighters work on a holding line on the Consalus Fire, located on the Priest River Ranger District in Pend Oreille County, Wash. The fire is 10 miles west of Coolin, Idaho.
(Photo courtesy USDA FOREST SERVICE)
Staff Writer | July 15, 2023 1:00 AM
While the Consalus Fire continues to grow, so does the number of firefighters assigned to the fire as crews continue to make gains to bring the fire under greater containment.
On the Bee Top Fire, firefighters made significant gains, bringing containment to 35 percent.
Bee Top Fire
Helicopter crews cooled the fire with bucket drops — and sling-loaded gear and food to crews at temporary firefighting camps, referred to as spike camps, mid-way up Bee Top Mountain.
In addition, a drone is being used to identify interior heat and hot spots along the fire perimeter.
While the three helicopters assigned to the fire will continue to be used to cool the fire, Idaho Panhandle National Forests officials said the drone will continue to search for interior heat and hot spots.
Klamath Interagency Hotshot Crews have spent the past two days building hand and saw lines around the fire's western flank, progressing from the bottom to the top of the mountain.
With a saw line completed on the fire's eastern flank, the Plumas IHC is working to build a handline from the top of the fire downward, while the Mad River IHC is pushing up from the bottom.
An initial attack team has begun backhauling house from the contingency line to the west of the fire and will beginning chipping operations, IPNF officials said.
Crews again slept in the spike camp Friday with aerial support from the helicopters, which brought in food and gear.
Reported July 1, the lightning-sparked fire has burned 45 acres and is listed at 35% contained. A total of 125 fire personnel are assigned to the fire as are two engines, three helicopters and three hand crews. Located 5 miles up Lightning Creek Road, the fire is being managed by Northern Rockies Team 9 led by Shane Martin.
Firefighters have begun strategic firing operations, the controlled use of low-intensity fire to reduce the amount of fuels and create a deeper fireline, on the northwestern side of the Consalus Fire.
A five-person crew was out overnight Thursday to monitor the edge where the operations occurred, officials said. If conditions allow, firefighters will continue with similar efforts to the east on the fire's north perimeter, INPF officials said.
On the fire's east side, the Flathead IHC completed a handline from the bottom of Consalus Creek as they worked toward a heavy equipment crew pushing downward.
A dozer has made progress in opening Forest Service Road 333, giving fire and equipment crews access to the fire's western side. An indirect line is further out from the fire to the west if needed, officials said.
A Type 1 Helicopter has been assigned to the fire for water drops, and other helicopters and aircraft are available for various missions if needed.
Reported June 30, the Consalus Fire has burned 305 acres and is 10% contained. A total of 265 fire personnel are assigned to the fire, located 10 miles west of Coolin in Pend Oreille County, Wash. There are two engines, eight-plus hand crews, and five faller modules, four water tenders and an ambulance crew assigned to the fire as well as an assortment of heavy equipment.
Road and trail closures
• Bee Top Fire
There are no closures listed. However, the public is urged to use caution in the area and to check InciWeb frequently for the latest information before recreating in the area.
• Consalus Fire
Several road closures went into effect at midnight Thursday, July 13. Forest Service Road 1108 is closed from the junction with FSR 333 to the junction with FSR 659. FSR 1094 will remain open for the first 4.5 miles from the junction with FSR 312, however, the remainder will be closed to the junction with FSR 1108. The public is asked to avoid the following roads: the section of FSR 1094 not closed; FSR 312 (from the junction with FSR 333 to the junction with FSR 659); FSR 659 in its entirety; and FSR 333 (from Highway 57 to the junction with FSR 1108).
Those accessing the Crystal Mine area off FSR 659 may need to pull over to allow heavy equipment and fire crews to access the area.
There is a temporary flight restriction over the fire area. Flying civilian drones is prohibited and could ground firefighting crews.