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Monday, August 24, 2015

Forest assesses situation and assigns limited firefighting resources

KamiahIdaho , August 23, 2015 –Conditions are extremely smoky in all areas of the Forest today due to aninversion that kept temperatures cooler and limited the spread of most area fires.  It has also prevented fire managers from making good assessments of the locations and sizes of fires across the Forests’ four million acres.  Fire activity is expected to intensify when the inversion lifts. 

With incident management teams assigned to four fire complexes in north-central Idahofirefighting personnel and equipment continue to establish and improve firelines protecting private homes and property.  This means few firefighting resources are available to battle remote blazes spread across the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests’ vast backcountry.  At this time, the Forests’ emphasis is initial attack of new fires, and monitoring, planning and structure protection for existing fires, many of which have grown quite large over the last couple of weeks.

The list of restrictions and closures continues to grow with the addition of a significant new area closure in the Powell vicinity.  That closure, a response to fire activity associated with the Jay Point Fire, closes an area south of Powell roughly from the Warm Springs pack bridge east to the White Sands Campground.  The southernmost boundary is the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.  Consequently, access to Walton Lakes, Wind Lakes and Tom Beal Park is restricted.

The Jay Point Fire is located roughly 1.5 miles west of Powell and has spread over an estimated 700 acres.  The fire continues to spread downhill, and has the potential to impact the Powell area and U.S. Highway 12.  All Powell area campgrounds remain closed.

Firefighters and equipment assigned to the fire continue to focus on structure protection.  A Level 1 evacuationnotice remains in effect.  (A Level 1 notice alerts residents that fire danger exists in their area, and encourages them to monitor sources of fire information.)

The Lochsa South Complex consists of 12 fires located on the south side of the Lochsa River from Warm Springs Creek on the east to the Selway River on the west.  These fires have covered an estimated 1000 acres.  The 200-acre Lone Knob Fire is up the drainage approximately one mile from Wilderness Gateway Campground and outfitter and guide area.  Fire personnel are monitoring these fires and implementing protection actions for the Wilderness Gateway area.

The Wilderness Complex consists of eight fires which have burned roughly 6000 acres.  These fires are located within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.  The largest fire within the complex is the Army Mule Fire which is estimated to be 2500 acres. It is located approximately nine miles northwest of Elk Summit.   

On the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests’ South ZoneMike Dueitt’s “Red Team,” a national Type I incident management team, assumed responsibility for the Wash and Baldy Fires today.  That Team is setting up a “small city” of firefighting personnel at Red River.

A level 1 Evacuation Alert for the Elk City area remains in place.  It is related to fire activity associated with the advancing Baldy and Wash Fires.

In the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the Crown Fire has been burning generally north-northeast toward Trail 580 while the Rattlesnake Fire is moving downriver toward the mouth of Bargamin Creek and northeast toward Sheep Hill Lookout.  These fires each are estimated to be 1200 acres.

The Little Green Fire, which is roughly 200 acres, continues to advance southwest toward the Green Mountain Lookout.  Structure protection has been completed for that facility.  

On the Forests’ North Zone, the North Fork Ranger District reported that the 11 fires being managed as the Larkin Complex have spread over an estimated 3000 acres.  These remote fires are located roughly 30 miles northeast of Pierce, Idaho.  The largest fire in the Complex is the Snow Creek Fire at 1500 acres, while the Heather Fire is 550 acres.  

Recent closures associated with these fires include segments of Skull Creek Road 252 and South Skull Creek Road 710.  A section of Snow Creek Trail 285 has also been closed to ensure public safety.

Also on the North Fork District and outside of the Larkin Complex, the Scurvy Mountain Fire has grown to 90 acres and is threatening the Scurvy Mountain Lookout.  Firefighters are working to protect that facility.

The large number of area, road and trail closures makes much country inaccessible for Forest visitors.   Prospective visitors are encouraged to visit the Forests’ website to view a summary, comprehensive map, and actual orders which provide details about the restrictions and closures.  These closures and fire information is posted at:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/nezperceclearwater/home .  Click on the “Fire Information” icon at the top of the page.
Information for the Clearwater Complex, Motorway Complex, Municipal Complex and many other fires is available at:  http://inciweb.nwcg.gov.  The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is working to post information about major fire activity soon.
New wildfires can be reported to the Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center at 208-983-6800, or to the Idaho County Sheriff’s office at 208-983-1100.