Firefighters gaining ground on multiple wildfires

Area closures, fire restrictions in effect; county declares state of emergency

With the exception of two large wildfires, firefighters on the Kootenai National Forest are gaining ground. The county’s two largest fires are the Davis fire and the Ten Mile fire, both in excess of 300 acres with zero percent containment reported as of Aug. 3, 2018.

The Davis Fire, located 10 miles northwest of Yaak, currently covers 307 acres of dense timber. According to a press release issued by the Kootenai National Forest, the fire behavior is moderate, with group torching and spotting. The plan as of Friday, Aug. 3, was for firefighters to construct fire lines around the eastern edge of the fire, using both hand crews and heavy equipment.

Currently, 141 personnel are assigned to the Davis Fire.

The area’s largest fire so far is the Ten Mile fire, located 19 miles south of Eureka. The fire, also with zero containment reported, spans 372 acres. The fire behavior has been characterized as active, with short crown runs, group torching, and long-range spotting. The Forest Service also reports communication infrastructure in the area is threatened by the blaze.

Crews are working to construct direct and indirect fire lines around the fire, using Type I personnel and heavy equipment.

Three other area wildfires are nearing full containment status: The Porcupine, Feeder, and Highway 37 fires.

Porcupine, located 15 miles west of Eureka, currently encompasses 17 acres and is reported at 40 percent containment. The fire is currently under the auspices of a Type II incident management team. The 46-person firefighting group is working to contain and secure the fire perimeter.

The Feeder fire, reported at 70 percent containment, spans 11 acres in the Three Rivers district and is being fought by 15 Kootenai National Forest firefighters along with a Type II IA crew and six smokejumpers with helicopter support.

The Highway 37 fire, which has burned 70 acres near the closed W.R. Grace vermiculate mine near Libby, is now reported at 80 percent containment. The fire is being managed by a 110-person contract crew and two engine crews, supported by a decontamination crew and a variety of heavy equipment and support.

Fourteen additional fires on the Kootenai National Forest are now listed as out, contained, or in patrol status. Those fires are: Zimmerman, Pony, Zulu, Pulpit 1, Pulpit 2, Crum, Raymond, Twin Lakes, Twin Meadows, Sunday, Cayuse, Rope Swing, Cibid Lake, and South Wolf. The Callahan Creek fire, with seven smokejumpers and helicopter support assigned, has been contained at two acres and, as of Aug. 3, was anticipated to be shifted to patrol status.

The fires have resulted in a number of road, trail, and area closures. Forest Service officials are asking the public to follow the USFS – Kootenai National Forest Facebook page to keep updated on these closures.

Although fire crews have been able to contain the fires on the forest to date, weather conditions have prompted both federal agencies and local government to impose Stage I fire restrictions in Lincoln County. Under Stage I restrictions, fires are prohibited except within developed recreation sites and smoking is only allowed in areas cleared of all flammable material.

In response to the escalating risk of wildfire and the costs associated with firefighting efforts, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners officially declared a state of emergency at their Aug. 1, 2018, meeting. The state of emergency allows the county to apply to the state for reimbursement of some of the firefighting costs.

Photo of Ten Mile Fire courtesy of Inciweb.