August 18, 2011 in City, Idaho

Crews slow Silver Peak fire near gondola and homes

 
Jesse Tinsley photo

Hot spots flare up above homes near Kellogg on Wednesday. A wildfire started behind some homes there and rushed up the steep hillsides Wednesday afternoon, briefly forcing authorities to talk about evacuation plans. By nightfall, the fire’s spread was slowed.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

A fire that burned 20 to 25 acres south of Kellogg on Wednesday is suspicious in origin.

The fire, reported about 2 p.m. just south of town, burned south toward Wardner, and at times came close to homes and the gondola at Silver Mountain Resort. Silver Mountain crews kept the gondola running as part of its emergency protocol to prevent any one spot on the gondolas from getting too hot. No structures were damaged and no one was injured, officials said.

Fire officials say the fire, which according to the Coeur d’Alene Interagency Dispatch Center was dubbed the Silver Peak fire, was mostly contained Wednesday night. Crews were expected to fight the fire through the night.

“Pretty much we’ve got crews covering everything and it’s in good shape,” said Chief Dale Costa of Shoshone County Fire District No. 2.

The fire’s cause is unknown, but Costa said it’s being investigated as a suspicious fire.

A large plume of smoke could be seen over the Silver Valley at the fire’s peak.

Gusts and warm, dry weather increased the fire’s aggressive behavior earlier in the day, complicating firefighters’ work. As the winds died and temperatures dropped in the evening, crews gained an upper hand on the blaze.

Costa said a tree thinning project helped and hurt firefighting efforts. Although timber had been thinned in some areas, the debris had been piled up awaiting cooler temperatures for a controlled burn, leaving ample fuel.

Meanwhile, Washington Department of Natural Resources crews gained control of a grass and timber fire burning Wednesday south of Cheney near Bonnie Lake.

The fire, reported Wednesday afternoon near Long Road in south Spokane County at the Whitman County line, burned between 50 and 100 acres, said Guy Gifford, a DNR forester. By Wednesday night, he said the fire was “not going anywhere under current conditions.” He expected that fire crews would be mopping up today.

The fire threatened some homes in the area, but none were damaged. The cause remains under investigation.

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