Although recent rain and cooler temperatures have provided an opportunity for firefighters to make progress towards controlling existing fires, there are still up to 70 fires actively burning approximately 80,000 acres across the forest. The record dry conditions have left forest vegetation void of the moisture normally present this time of year. Weather forecasts indicate that “significant fire potential will remain above normal” across northern Idaho. It takes a continued pattern of moisture and cooler temperatures for large dead fuels, greater than three inches in diameter, to absorb adequate moisture to reduce the risk of dangerous wildfire spread. When these fuels ignite they generate intense heat and extreme fire conditions. Until there is a significant amount of moisture that typically characterizes autumn in north Idaho, these fires are likely to resist any efforts to contain them.
All agencies are cooperating to prioritize fires, share resources and work to extinguish these fires as quickly as possible. The severe shortage of firefighting resource across the northwest leaves a large number of fires on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests unstaffed and with uncontrolled burning edges. Fire, in dry conditions, can move much faster than you’d think; up to 100 mph in short bursts! Extreme fires have the potential to create their own weather making the direction of fire spread unpredictable. The highest priority fires are those that are threatening life or property.
Forest leadership and fire managers will continue to monitor the weather, fire activity and firefighter progress with the intent to lift these closures as soon as it is safe to do so. Members of the public are encouraged to go towww.inciweb.nwcg.gov for the latest updates on the current fire situation. For information on closure areas, including maps and closure orders, please visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests homepage located at www.fs.usda.gov/IPNF.