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Crews making gains on Consalus Fire

| July 20, 2023 1:00 AM

PRIEST RIVER — An infrared flight earlier this week showed significantly less heat along the Consalus Fire’s eastern edge.

That flight has fire managers from the Northern Rockies Type 3 incident management team assessing current fire lines to determine where they might be considered contained. Containment is when a control line has been completed and can reasonably be expected to stop a fire from spreading.

As of Wednesday morning, the fire has burned an estimated 461 acres and was at 10% containment. The fire is located on the Priest Lake Ranger District, in Pend Oreille County, Wash., 10 miles west of Coolin.

“Containment increases when the burned area from the fireline into the interior has cooled and is unlikely to throw sparks over the line in the wind or if trees come down,” Idaho Panhandle National Forests officials said in a press release. “While there are lines around the entire fire, most have not yet reached this status.”

Crews are working to improve lines, add additional contingency lines, and fight the fire directly to add depth and stop the fire’s spread, they said.

Standing dead trees, also known as snags, continue to be one of the most significant hazards facing fire crews.

“Sawyers are mitigating these trees, and crews stay out of them as much as possible, instead patrolling and running sprinkler systems,” officials said.

Night operations remain on the fire, as crews patrol the lines and keep sprinklers running. On the north, crews are gridding for spots, and mopping up along the fire’s edge with water and hand tools.

A strategic firing operation — the controlled use of low-intensity fire to reduce fuels and add depth to the firelines — was conducted Tuesday afternoon in the Consalus Creek area to burn out a small fuel pocket. Additional firing operations were planned for Wednesday, dependent upon conditions.

Reported June 30, the Consalus Fire has a total of 337 fire personnel assigned to the fire, as are four aircraft, a helicopter, a drone, 10-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. Firefighting efforts are being managed by the Northern Rockies Type 3 Incident Management Team led by John Heyn.

Bee Top Fire

The Bee Top Fire was placed in "patrol status" Tuesday, meaning that crews will check on the fire on a regular basis but will not need to build any additional containment lines.

Reported July 1, the lightning-sparked fire has burned an estimated 45 acres as of Tuesday. Management of the fire was assumed by the Sandpoint Ranger District early Wednesday morning.

Road and trail closures

• Bee Top Fire

There are no closures listed.

• Consalus Fire

Several road closures went into effect at midnight Tuesday. 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. FSR 659 is closed from the junction with FSR 312 to the junction with FSR 659B; and FSR 333 from the junction with FSR 2730 to its end.

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. If you fly, they can’t.

Information: inciweb.nwcg.gov