Region’s fires continue to burn

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Area fires continue to burn, leaving smoky conditions and possible evacuations.

The area immediately north of Sullivan Lake is now under Level 1 evacuation notice, which means get ready to evacuate, due to burnout operations on the Noisy Creek Fire.

The Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management made the announcement on Monday.

Firefighters are working to suppress a wildland fire burning east of Sullivan Lake in northern Pend Oreille County on the Colville National Forest, according to Inciweb. This fire was reported on Saturday, July 15 after a lightning event moved across the northern part of the Colville National Forest in the early morning.

The fire was at 3,120 acres on Monday and its containment was estimated at 22 percent.

The fire is burning on the east side of Sullivan Lake, approximately 6 miles southeast of Metaline Falls. The types of forest fuels include timber (litter and understory), closed timber litter, dense timber, heavy dead and down material.

More than 200 firefighters are on the scene.

The fire heated up at the ridge top above Noisy Creek, adjacent to the Grease Creek fire scare. Fixed-wing planes were requested to cool that area.

“There was also an increase in activity this afternoon on the slope above Sullivan Creek between Hall Creek and Johns Creek,” the Inciweb post said.

Burnout operations were expected to conclude Tuesday.

“The fire will continue to slowly spread north along the face of Hall Mountain above Sullivan Lake but will likely slow due to lack of fuels in the steep, rocky slopes. On the north side of the fire, fingers will continue to back down into the drainages and make occasional runs uphill through unburned fuels,” the Inciweb post added.

Fire managers are asking drone operators to respect the airspace and to keep their drones out of the area.

Under a Level 1 evacuation alert, residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area, and monitor local media outlets for information. Residents with special needs (such as a susceptibility to breathing problems in wildfires or those with animals/pets) should take note and begin making arrangements to evacuate. For wildfires, smoke can often cause the most problems for residents, especially those sensitive to smoke and animals. Evacuations at this time are voluntary.

Level 2 and 3 alerts mean, be ready to evacuate and evacuate, respectively.

During evacuations, the American Red Cross will establish shelters at schools, churches, or community buildings in our area in safe zones.

The Priest Lake Ranger District also has a wildfire burning in the upper Hughes Creek drainage area. The North Fork Hughes Fire is located just north of Hughes Meadows across the Washington State line, visible from the Priest Lake area. As of the latest infrared flight on Aug. 8, the fire is 1,150 acres, according to Inciweb. 

A lightning storm on June 28 likely sparked the fire, and it was located by firefighters on July 4. Smokejumpers were sent in to suppress the fire, but after three days, due to safety concerns, they had to disengage. Steep, rugged terrain is challenging and presenting multiple safety concerns for firefighters. The fire is burning in a remote location within the Salmo Priest Wilderness where access is very limited. The fire is burning in very large trees on a steep slope. As the fire burns, trees are falling and sliding down 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 Inciweb. 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. Fire managers are developing a strategic action plan to manage this fire.

"The plan will give the highest priority to firefighter and public safety, with safe, efficient, and mindful management decisions," said Chandra Neils, acting Priest Lake district ranger in the Inciweb post.

Mary Malone contributed to this report.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee. Mary Malone can be by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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