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Wildfires spreading in North Idaho

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 13, 2018, 6:17 p.m.

Using firefighting airplanes, crews are working to suppress two of the biggest fires growing in North Idaho – Cougar Fire and Surprise Creek Fire.

Cougar Fire, northeast of Lake Pend Orielle, is the largest at 3,454 acres as of Monday. Crews worked to reduce fire spreading north and east in the rough forest land.

The Surprise Creek Fire in south Bonner County grew to 1,494 acres on Monday. Both are 0 percent contained.

Colder night-time temperatures and moisture Sunday reduced fire spread, according to a news release, but the return of nightly thermal belts over both fires is likely.

Anne Rys-Sikora, spokesperson for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, said crews are dealing with 10 fires in total, all from lightning strikes.

Farther north, for some of the smaller fires, an expected weather front missed North Idaho and gave a more favorable outcome, she said.

Rys-Sikora said a few firefighters have suffered from dehydration, but there have been no major injuries. As of Monday, no structures have been reported burned and no one has been evacuated, she said.

With the fires growing, she said priority for national aid is increasing. Crews from across the country have come to Idaho to help. Some are being helicoptered to smaller wildfires that aren’t easily accessible, she said, and Canadian crews are also using planes to help douse the fires.

This fire season is comparable to 2015, when thousands acres of wildfires burned up the Panhandle, Rys-Sikora said.

“Kootenai is getting slammed this year,” she said. “They’re getting pounded with lightning.”

North Idaho is under Stage 1 fire restrictions and campfires on public lands are not allowed unless in designated fire rings. For more information on restrictions, visit http://www.idahofireinfo.com/p/fire-restrictions.html.


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