Crews try to keep wildfires away from homes near Thompson Falls

2014-08-11T07:24:00Z 2014-08-12T11:18:10Z Crews try to keep wildfires away from homes near Thompson FallsBy DILLON KATO Missoulian The Billings Gazette
August 11, 2014 7:24 am  • 

Fire crews are still hard at work fighting the Thompson River Complex fires burning near Plains and Thompson Falls.

The original four fires that started Aug. 1 have merged into two larger fires, the Koo Koo Sint and the Spruce fires.

Fire information officer Jennifer Costich said while the Koo Koo Sint fire, about six miles east of Thompson Falls, is currently threatening several private homes and other buildings in the area, structure protection crews working on the south edge of the fire have been successful establishing point protection measures and are “cautiously optimistic.”

“They feel like they have some pretty defensible ground there,” she said.

She said with lower winds Sunday, the fire was slightly less active over the day, allowing firefighters to make progress on the Koo Koo Sint’s northern and eastern perimeter.

Crews are also working to contain the Spruce fire, burning in the west fork of the Thompson River drainage. They have so far been able to hold it west of West Fork Road and North of Big Spruce Creek, Costich said.

On Friday, a spot fire started east of West Fork Road. Costich said crews responded to the new fire by dropping water and retardant on the blaze, but that it remains active. The new fire is burning in an area of rough terrain, making it difficult for ground crews to reach it.

The two fires are estimated at 727 acres, and are listed as about 50 percent contained. In total, 230 firefighters are working on the fire complex, backed up by multiple fire engines, helicopters and aircraft.

The Forest Service has closed Forest Road 603 and all of its feeder roads into the west fork of the Thompson River drainage. Trails 445 (Koo-Koo-Sint) and 1102 (Big Spruce) are also closed.

In Idaho, the Johnson Bar fire, burning in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is now under the control of a Type II incident management team. The lightning-sparked fire, about 10 miles southeast of the town of Syringa and U.S. Highway 12, is estimated at 1,610 acres in an area with heavy dead and downed timber fuel. The fire started Aug. 2.

More than 200 firefighters are currently working to suppress the fire, and four helicopters are dropping water. The fire is expected to continue to grow because of warm weather and the steep, rugged terrain that is making it difficult to fight.

The Bill fire near Shearer, Idaho in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness grew to 10 acres. A rappel crew and smokejumpers are currently working the fire. Eight other fires in the wilderness area are being allowed to burn. Six other small fires, each under 10 acres, are burning in the Red River Ranger Distrcit.

A Type III incident management team has been put in place for the Rain Complex fires, four fires burning around 3,500 acres in the Bargamin Creek drainage. In the North Fork Ranger District, the Bruin fire, at around 55 acres, is being allowed for resource objectives.

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