Recent lightning storms sparked several fires in the area, most of which were quickly contained.
The Noisy Creek Fire, however, spread to 1,020 acres as of Monday, burning in heavy timber on a steep, rugged slope, according to a statement from the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office. The Noisy Creek Fire is located three miles east of Sullivan Lake near Metaline Falls, Wash.
The overall fire activity picked up Sunday with lower relative humidity and higher temperatures, the statement says. The fire flanked to the ridge west of John Creek and continued downslope backing toward Noisy Creek and Sullivan Lake. Minimal movement toward Sullivan Creek to the north was observed.
Firefighting crews continued to hold the fire line at Noisy Creek on the south end of the fire perimeter, using helicopter support and burn out operations to support suppression objectives. Aviation resources are being used for bucket drops of water on hot spots. On Monday, firefighters were actively working to keep the fire north of Noisy Creek. The active part of the fire will continue to demonstrate isolated torching and some group tree torching in areas. The dozer and excavator crews continue to work on accessing the fire through closed roads using them as fire control lines and access into the fire area, the statement says.
Smoke will continue to be visible from the northern areas of Pend Oreille County and higher elevations of Stevens and Ferry counties, according to the statement. No structures are threatened at this time. Steep terrain, snags and rolling debris continue to be a hazard.
The forecasted weather for the next several days will be hot and dry. Winds have been moderate with light gusts. As the weather stays warm, the fire will experience moderate fire behavior with some isolated pockets of torching trees and the potential for short uphill runs, the statement says.
The Priest Lake Ranger District still has one small wildfire burning in the upper Hughes Creek drainage. The North Fork Hughes Fire is located just north of Hughes Meadows across the Washington state line, visible from the Priest Lake area. A lightning storm on June 28 likely sparked the fire, which was located by firefighters on July 4. Smokejumpers were sent in to suppress the fire, but after three days, due to safety concerns of steep, rugged terrain, they had to disengage, according to the Incident Information System.
The fire is burning in a remote location within the Salmo Priest Wilderness where access is very limited. The fire is approximately 200 acres, and is burning in very large trees on a steep slope. As the fire burns, trees are falling and sliding down the slope. The fire is currently creeping and backing down hill.
Fire managers are considering several variables and evaluating the fire from both air and ground, according to the Incident Information System. It has been determined that firefighters cannot safely engage the fire due to remoteness, rugged terrain, heavy fuels, snags, lack of helicopter landing spots, escape routes and safety zones.
The U.S. Forest Service list of fires reported in the Idaho Panhandle as of July 28 also include:
• The Trestle Peak Fire in the Sandpoint Ranger District. The fire is down to 15 acres is 100 percent contained. The only closure still in place for the area of the Trestle Peak Fire is Trail 526.
• The Happy 302 Fire in the Priest Lake Ranger District, 0.2 acres, was reported on July 25 and put out on July 27. This fire was started by lightning.
• The 1-acre Huff Fire in the Priest Lake Ranger District was reported on July 22. The cause of the fire was lightning and was put out July 28.
• The 2.5-acre 311 Fire, located near Athol Creek and Granite Creek in the Priest Lake Ranger District was reported on July 22. It was controlled on July 26. This fire was human-caused and is under investigation.
• The Reeder Mountain Fire, 4 acres, is located eight miles north of Nordman on the northeast side of Reeder Mountain. Due to the steep slopes and terrain, engines are not able to access the fire, but crews expected to have it under control on July 28.
• The East Fork of Meadows Fire, 0.1 acres, in the Bonners Ferry Ranger District is suspected to be human-caused and is currently under investigation. The fire was reported and put out on July 27.
• The Badger Fire in the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District, 0.1 acres, was reported July 25 and controlled the next day. It was located on Badger Mountain near Hudlow Saddle and was human-caused.
• The Petty Fire, 0.1 acres, was reported on July 25 and put out the same day. It was located in the Teddy Flat dispersed camp area on the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River and was human-caused.
• The Hudlow Fire, 0.1 acres, and the Skitwish Fire, .25 acres, in the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District were controlled on July 24. Both were human-caused.
Six of the last eight wildfires in the Coeur d'Alene Ranger District were human-caused, according to a recent press release from the U.S. Forest Service.
Fire danger in the Idaho Panhandle is "very high" and people are advised to be cautious with fire. If recreating outdoors, make sure campfires are completely extinguished and cool to the touch before leaving. Stay on designated routes and dispose of cigarettes responsibly. Human caused starts, particularly in the Wildland-Urban Interface, pose a threat to the public as well as requiring valuable firefighting resources that may be needed elsewhere.
"We are doing everything we can to suppress these fires as quickly, efficiently and, most importantly, as safely as possible," the statement said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.