Officials ask public to be diligent to prevent wildfire starts

Majority of fires statewide caused by humans

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

Officials continue to monitor wildfires burning in the region, with some showing increased fire activity due to high winds and low humidity.

“We just moved into ‘very high’ fire danger yesterday,” Idaho Department of Lands Fire Warden Brian Hicks told the Reader. “The mountains have been on ‘very high’ for several weeks, but now it’s including the valleys.”

Hicks said IDL is not issuing burn permits at this time except for crop residual burns in Boundary County. Campfires are still permitted in rings.

An aerial view of the Consalus Fire near Coolin.
Photo by USFS.

“They need to make sure their campfires are cold to the touch when they leave,” Hicks said. “Stir them and mix with water when they leave.”

A red flag warning July 24 called for high winds, which Hicks said had minimal effect on the handful of fires in our region.

“There was some scattered isolated lightning with that event, so we’re monitoring the locations of the strikes,” Hicks said.

There are currently three wildfires burning within an hour of Sandpoint: the Consalus Fire near Coolin, the Bee Top Fire five miles up Lighting Creek Road and the Beauty Creek Fire northeast of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The 475-acre Consalus Fire is currently listed at 40% containment, with 205 total personnel working the fire. High winds on July 24 caused some increases of fire activity in pockets of unburned fuels within the perimeter of the fire. Further containment was achieved on the northern edge of the fire and fire crews are utilizing sprinkler systems to cool the edges while working to mop up remaining hotspots in the Consalus Creek area.

The last update for the lightning-caused Bee Top Fire on July 24 indicated 30% containment, with a total size of 45 acres listed. While it had been listed at 88% contained, that number dropped to 30% as a result of spot fires that flared up July 19 in extremely steep terrain.

The 13-acre Beauty Creek Fire was reported July 21 burning in heavy timber northeast of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Due to cooler temperatures and a tested fireline, fire officials are confident in calling the fire 100% contained, with firefighters starting mop-up, working from the perimeter toward the interior. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by federal law enforcement.

There have been 141 fires reported statewide, which is 176% of the 20-year average. Of the 141 fires reported, 68 have been listed as human-caused, 33 started naturally and 40 of undetermined cause.

Within the Pend Oreille Fire District, IDL has kept tabs on 30 fires in North Idaho from the northern border of Boundary County south to Granite Lake.

Hicks urged property owners to check on burn piles they might have burned in spring to avoid having them rekindle and start a fire.

“These piles that they lit in March, April, May, they’re coming back to life,” Hicks said. “This is just a friendly reminder to folks that they can be on the hook for those suppression charges if we do have to go out and suppress those fires.”

Hicks said burning slash piles is much better in the late fall because the snow load over winter will make it very unlikely those piles come back to life.

The weather outlook for the coming week is trending hot and dry, and Hicks said he expects further restrictions as it gets hotter and drier.

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