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Silver Peak fire 90 percent contained

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 18, 2011, 11:07 a.m.

Authorities seeking help from witnesses

Eighty firefighters continued a battle today against a wildfire south of Kellogg that authorities said is suspicious in origin.

The fire was 90 percent contained, but stubborn hot spots continued to smolder on the mountainside next to the gondola at Silver Mountain Resort.

The fire, reported about 2 p.m. Wednesday, burned south toward Wardner, and at times came close to homes and the gondola.

Authorities are asking for the public’s help in their investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the Kellogg Police Department at (208) 786-9131.

Fire Officer Glenn Lauper said investigators are particularly interested in examining any photographs taken before firefighters arrived on the scene. They are also hoping to identify spectators, he said.

“We are looking for anybody who saw anything suspicious,” Lauper said.

During the height of the fire Wednesday, 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 75 percent contained by Wednesday night. Crews were expected to mop up the fire through Friday.

“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.

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.

Some of those slash piles were harboring fire this morning.

The threat to homes and structures was stopped. No injuries were reported. Equipment used on the fire included five engines, an excavator, a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane with retardant.

Crews came from Shoshone County Fire District 2, the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands. The Idaho State Fire Marshal is investigating.

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