Rains dampen recent area fires

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A lightning storm that blew across the Panhandle last weekend ignited almost a dozen trees and ground fires, resulting in burns of a tenth of an acre or less, according to the Forest Service.

The blazes were confirmed by fire officials either on the ground or from an airplane, and they burned themselves out before growing.

Last weekend’s storm also brought drenching rain that helped slow the spread of two large fires south of Avery and near Cataldo, and one of them has been contained.

The Lick Creek Fire 6 miles south of Avery was 100% contained Saturday, Forest Service Public Information Officer Kary Maddox said.

The fire was first reported last week on checkerboard land ownership that included mostly Potlatch Deltic land in the Lick Creek drainage. Roads in the drainage west of Forest Road 301 or the Fishhook Road were closed to traffic.

Once a fire is contained, crews can start to repair dozer lines and mitigate some of the damage that happens as a result of firefighting efforts, while firefighters ensure the fire is put out.

“They will continue to patrol, monitor, mop up and rehab,” Maddox said. “Fire is very persistent.”

A fire near Cataldo, called the CCC Fire, which burned north of I-90 was 50% contained by Monday as fire crews were able to get a fire line completely around the 528-acre blaze. A square mile is 640 acres.

“Fire behavior remains minimal, with creeping and smoldering as crews continue mop up operations,” said Jennifer Russell, fire information officer at the Idaho Department of Lands.

Firefighters, including two hotshot crews, nine engines, a dozer and water tenders, continued Monday to use hoses to drench the fire.

“(We’re) working toward the goal of complete containment,” Russell said.

IDL protocol requires crews to manually feel with an ungloved hand the ash and earth to “detect any residual heat,” Russell said.

Fires are considered contained when the earth 100 feet from the perimeter is completely cold to the touch, she said.

Because of the threats of erosion, dangerous snags along travel routes, and traffic from firefighting vehicles, road closures will remain in effect at both the Lick Creek and CCC fires, officials said.

The CCC Fire caused the closure of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes from Cataldo to Kingston, the CCC Road — for which the fire is named — from Cataldo to the Wall Ridge Road, and Forest Road No. 259 behind Cataldo Mountain.

The CCC fire was reported Aug. 7 when it burned about 50 acres at an active logging site about two miles north of Cataldo. It quickly spread to 200 acres in steep terrain, according to IDL, and then jumped to more than 500 acres.

Earlier fires included the Mica Creek fire four miles south of Calder and 23 miles east of St. Maries that burned 40 acres in an active logging site between Aug. 1 and Aug. 5, and the 2-acre Hazard Creek Fire that was detected on Aug. 6, near the Priest Lake Ranger District Office. The fire was contained the same day. The Hazard Creek fire appears to have been human-caused and the Forest Service is asking for anyone with information about the fire’s cause to contact the district. Cause of the other fires is being investigated. The Forest Service reported 28 fires so far this season on Idaho Panhandle National Forest land compared to more than 100 at this time last year, Maddox said.

“It’s been quite a different season,” she said.

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