Stage II fire restrictions set to start

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SANDPOINT — Even as the smoke clears and blue skies emerge in North Idaho, several fires are burning throughout the region, and officials are implementing stage II fire restrictions beginning Wednesday.

The closest of the fires, the North Fork Hughes Fire in the Priest Lake Ranger District and the Noisy Creek Fire near Metaline Falls, Wash., have expanded to 1,280 acres and 4,000 acres respectively. The Noisy Creek Fire is 49-percent contained as of Monday, according to Inciweb, the Incident Information System. The area surrounding East Sullivan Lake Campground remains under a Level 2 Evacuation status, which means "get set" — be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Aided by cooler temperatures, higher humidity and nearly 0.10 inch of rain, Noisy Creek Fire activity was light across the burned area, and nearly absent along the fires edge, according to a statement on Inciweb Monday. Containment lines have been extended around most of the fires perimeter and a hose lay with sprinklers is keeping the forest wet along Noisy Creek.

Last updated on Inciweb Friday, the North Fork Hughes Fire continues to pose challenges for fire managers because of its location. The fire is burning in very large trees on a steep slope in a remote location within the Salmo Priest Wilderness where access is very limited. Fire managers are considering several variables and evaluating the fire from both air and ground. 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.

Drought conditions and "extreme" fire danger levels in North Idaho have prompted the stage II fire restrictions, according to a statement released Monday by the U.S. Forest Service, as well as several other land management agencies. The restrictions cover the Coeur d'Alene dispatch area, which includes all state, federal, and private forestland and rangeland in Bonner, Benewah, Boundary, Kootenai, Shoshone, and Latah counties. It also includes public lands in Washington and Montana that are administered by the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

These restrictions are implemented by agencies managing lands or providing wildland fire protection in the area, including the Bureau of Land Management, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Idaho Department of Lands, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the statement says.

"With the extreme conditions the region is experiencing, fire managers are asking the public to be extra cautious when spending time in the outdoors," the statement says. "As a reminder, fireworks are prohibited on state and private forestland and rangeland, and on public lands, roads, and trails in Idaho during closed fire season, May 10 through Oct. 20. Possession and/or use of fireworks is always prohibited on federal public lands."

Under Stage II fire restrictions, the following acts are prohibited on the restricted private, state and federally managed or protected lands, roads and trails:

• Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire.

• Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a designated recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

• Operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails in accordance with existing travel management plans for non-commercial purposes including ATVs, UTVs, and pickups.

The following acts are prohibited from 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and a patrol is required for one hour following cessation of all work as described below:

• Operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine for felling, bucking, skidding, processing, road building and woodcutting or any other activity employing the use of an internal combustion engine or off-road activity associated with industrial operations or firewood gathering.

• Blasting, welding, or other activities that generate flame or flammable material.

• Using an explosive.

The following are exemptions to the Stage II Fire Restrictions:

• Anyone with a written permit that specifically authorizes the otherwise prohibited act.

• Anyone using a fire or stove fire fueled solely by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels. Such devices, including propane campfires, may be used only in an area cleared of flammable material.

• Anyone using a generator with an approved spark arrester on areas that are cleared of all flammable materials within three feet of the generator.

• Private landowners using charcoal (disposed of properly) or propane barbecues on their own lands.

• Normal operations on crop lands.

• Emergency repair of public utilities and railroads as per conditions in Stage II Exemptions for public utilities and railroads. See Appendix 10 of the 2017 Idaho Interagency Fire Restrictions plan at idahofireinfo.com/.

• Any federal, state, or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force, in the performance of an official duty.

• Anyone conducting activities in designated areas where the activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice.

• All land within a city boundary.

Visit idahofireinfo.com/p/fire-restrictions.html for a detailed map and current information regarding fire restrictions.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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