Evacuation order lifted in West Kootenai area; additional road and trail closures ordered

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A member of the Mesa Hotshots, left, and a member of a Type 2 Hand Crew from Pennsylvania work a controlled burn on the West Fork fire north of Libby on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. They're looking into the forest to keep an eye out for spot fires. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

A number of fires continued to burn on the Kootenai National Forest over the weekend. Stage II Fire Restrictions are still in effect for Lincoln County and Kootenai National Forest due to extreme fire danger, and the Kootenai Forest has ordered larger area closures around the fire areas.

THE CARIBOU FIRE is at 21,566 and still 25 percent contained. Firefighters and equipment operators are continuing to build fire lines along the north flank of Marias Mountain, Blacktail Creek area and the Lime Creek area. Structure protection is the priority in the fire area. The evacuation order has been lifted for the West Kootenai area as of Sunday morning; however, a closure order remains in place for the Caribou Fire.

The Gibralter Ridge Fire is 8,115 acres and still at 27 percent containment. The fire backed down to the Williams’ Creek area and spotted over to the east side of Krag Peak. Pre-evacuation warnings and closure orders are still in place in the fire areas.

Shawn Pearson’s Type II Team assumed command of the Weasel Fire on Saturday night, and the team is in the process of developing a plan of action for the fire. This fire, located 17 miles northeast of Eureka, is estimated at 316 acres and no report of containment.

The Gibralter Ridge Fire and the Weasel fire are burning in the Kootenai National Forest near Eureka. The east side of the Gibralter fire has moved into the mouth of the Blue Sky drainage in the Whitefish Range. The Weasel Fire has moved near the Flathead and Kootenai forest boundary. The Kootenai National Forest has closed a large area from the Whitefish divide to the west boundary of the Fortine District, and from the Canadian Border to Deep Creek. The Flathead National Forest has closed an area north of Link Lake trailhead north to the Canada border and east of the Kootenai border.

Go to the Kootenai webpage at https://www.fs.usda.gov/kootenai for the latest on closure orders, Kootenai Forest fire maps and other fire information.

THE WEST FORK FIRE is estimated at 9,923 acres and still at zero percent containment. A Type I hot shot crew will complete the burnout operation in the Bobtail Ridge area. A three acre spot fire was contained ½ mile east of the fire line. There was active fire behavior near Mount Tom. Firefighters and heavy equipment will be used to construct fire line along Pipe Creek Road. Structure protection and evaluating values at risk remain the priority. Pre-evacuation and evacuation orders are in still in effect in the fire areas.

The Moose Peak Fire is estimated at 7,549 acres and still at zero percent containment. With the clear skies, aircraft was able to assist ground crews this weekend. Fire crews will continue constructing fire lines east of Sylvan Lake to Fisher Creek and west of Sylvan lake to south of McGinnis Meadows. Structure protection assessment and evaluating homes are on-going in the Fisher Creek and McGinnis Meadows areas. Visit the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page for the latest on pre-evacuations and evacuations.

The Highway 200 Complex fires, which includes the Sheep Gap, Deep Creek, Cub Creek, Readers, and Miller Creek fires, total 21,380 acres. These fires are at varying stages of containment. The Sheep Gap Fire is at 33 percent containment while the Reader Fires are still 80 percent contained. There is no report of containment for the Deep Creek, Cub Creek, and Miller Creek fires. Structure protection assessment and strengthening existing containment lines will continue to be the priority. Pre-evacuation warnings for affected residents are being coordinated by the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office.

The Cub Creek Fire is still the highest priority fire in the Highway 200 Complex. Firefighters will continue to implement control actions and provide structure protection along contingency lines located north, east, and south of the Sheep Gap Fire. Firefighters and heavy equipment will be used to construct and improve existing containment lines. There was a little more fire activity on the Sheep Gap Fire and spotting in Cub Creek. The nine National Guard troops are still providing security in the fire areas.

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