Rain brings relief from area wildfires

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

Wildland firefighters breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week as substantial rain fell across the region, resulting in the return of blue skies and smoke-free air.

The Ridge Creek Fire — the largest fire in the immediate region — is measured at 4,293 acres and listed at 15% containment, with a total of 545 fire personnel still attached to the fire. Burning 3.5 miles east of the north tip of Hayden Lake, the Ridge Creek Fire’s cause is listed as “Human/Under Investigation.”

According to a news release from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, cooler, wet weather Aug. 22 gave crews the opportunity to rehabilitate equipment in preparation for operations Aug. 23. An estimated 0.1 to 0.75 inches of rain fell throughout the region, with the west side of Ridge Creek Fire receiving more than the eastern and northern parts of the blaze. 

A particularly intense portion of the Buckskin 2 Fire that burned above F.S. Road 332. Photo courtesy USFS.

Crews were able to improve Forest Service Road 406, giving better access to the fire in order to build fireline from F.S. Road 406 at Sage Creek Saddle toward Bunco Road near Tapper Creek. 

Closer to home, the Buckskin 2 Fire, located about eight miles south of Clark Fork on the upper end of Twin Creek and Buckskin Saddle, is listed at 75% contained, with a total of 242 acres affected. With almost a half-inch of rain dropping on the conflagration, the release from the Sandpoint Ranger District stated, “There continues to be no growth on the fire in several days, and the fire behavior is just a smoldering interior allowing crews and equipment to improve the direct line along the west flank of the fire.” 

The fire remains 1.8 miles from the nearest structure.

“Until a season-ending event occurs, smoke may be visible from pockets of unburned fuels within the perimeter of the fire,” the release continued. “The smoke that has settled into the area is from existing and new large fires in Washington and British Columbia.”

After several days in the orange, red and even purple zones, airnow.gov listed the air quality in the green Aug. 23, bringing relief to many in the area.

Stage II fire restrictions are still in effect across the region, which prohibit campfires of any kind; smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a designated recreational site or while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials; operation of motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails; and operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine for woodcutting or firewood gathering purposes.

Weather forecasts call for milder temperatures in the coming days, with a chance Aug. 29 of thunderstorms and showers.

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