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Idaho fires started by lightning still burning

UPDATED: Tue., July 18, 2017, 12:37 p.m.

The Powerline Fire grew considerably Monday, reaching an estimated size of 7,000 acres.

The blaze, along with the Corral Creek Fire in Hells Canyon, is being managed as the Craig Mountain Complex. Both fires started Saturday from lightning strikes and are burning in steep, arid terrain in or near the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Lewiston.

A third blaze, the Snake River Fire, was started by the same series of lightning storms and is burning in the Snake River breaks west of Clarkston in Garfield County. That fire is nearly out.

The Powerline Fire started on a ridge between Eagle Creek and Deer Creek, both of which drain into the lower Salmon River. High tension electrical lines run along the ridge. Fed by gusty winds, the fire grew toward the south and southwest Monday. Fire information officer Jeanette Dreadfulwater said the blaze is moving laterally on the slopes but losing steam whenever it climbs in elevation.

“We are not seeing movement to the north because fuels are still green,” she said.

The fire is threatening at least one Idaho Fish and Game structure. Dreadfulwater didn’t know what kind of structure it is, but there is a remote public-use cabin in the area.

The 1,600-acre Corral Creek Fire is burning in Corral Creek, which drains into the Snake River at the northern end of Hells Canyon. It showed minimal growth Monday.

A type-2 incident command team is scheduled to take over management of suppression duties of both fires today. To accommodate firefighting efforts, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game closed a large section of the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area. There are road blocks at the intersection of Deer Creek and Zaza roads, and the Hoover Point Road is closed at its intersection with Soldier’s Meadows Road. Eagle Creek Road, which is beyond the closed section, previously was closed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The general area, sometimes referred to as Waha, consists of timbered uplands and steep and grassy river breaks with a mix of ownership that includes land managed by the departments of Lands and Fish and Game, the BLM, the Nez Perce Tribe and private property owners.

The Snake River Fire was last estimated to have burned about 3,100 acres. Fire spokesman Michael J. Krueger said a change in weather that began Sunday night caused the fire to unexpectedly peter out.

“Starting last night it got cool and the wind calmed down and the fire died,” Krueger said. “Literally, we were planning for a big operation, we were planning for some burn outs, and the wind died ahead of any of that.”

He estimated the fire to be 70 percent contained. Many crews either have left or are preparing to leave today, he said.

“The fire is pretty much over. We are going to be in patrol status (today). It’s all good news.”

The storms also started 18 fires on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. According to a news release from the agency, most of the fires have been staffed and a few others, burning in remote areas such as the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area, will be monitored but allowed to play their natural role in the environment.

Fire crews are working to suppress small blazes on the Powell Ranger District in the area where national forest land is interspersed with private timberland.

Firefighters are expected to protect the historic Moose Creek Ranger Station in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, where fires Moose Creek 1, Moose Creek 2 and Moose Creek 3 are all burning. Moose Creek 1 is about a quarter-mile from the ranger station and is estimated to be 7 acres. The other two have merged and are burning southwest of the Moose Creek Runway.

There are four other fires in the wilderness area and all – including those near the ranger station – are being allowed to burn to improve wildlife habitat and forest health.

On the Red River Ranger District, the Ladder, Rattlesnake Point and Bleak fires also are being allowed to burn.

Some trails on the forest have been closed because of the fires. A list of the closures is available at www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater by clicking on the “Fire Information” link.