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People still careless with fire; crews pay price

WILDFIRES — If you need more evidence that some people are clueless if not stupid, just ask a firefighter in the Priest Lake area.  Unattended campfires and dumping used charcoal briquettes in the woods after all the smoke and warnings about dry conditions?  Are you kidding?


Here's a Sunday report and an appeal from Jill Cobb, Fire Information Officer:


It cannot be stated enough how much our crews feel welcome and appreciated by this community. 


Having said that, we are asking for a little help from everyone to keep our crews safe and to help prevent future fires. 


Crew Safety:  Our crews are eating and showering at the gravel pit off of Ravin Ranch Road, north of the airstrip. These same crews sleep south of the airstrip off of Kalispell Bay Road at the Reynolds Creek Group site. It has come to our attention that shots are being fired late at night in the vicinity of our fire personnel. We are worried about the safety of our firefighters and support personnel and therefore respectfully ask the public to use firearms responsibly and be aware of our fire crews. 


Wildfire Prevention:  We need your help to prevent future fires. 


As unbelievable as it may seem, there are people who are still being careless with fires.  A few days ago, our firefighters had just finished a long 16 hour shift on the fire line.  These people were sleeping at the Reynolds Group Camping Site when they were awakened by the smell of smoke. When the firefighters should have been sleeping, they had to jump out of their beds to suppress this fire in the middle of the night.  It was determined that a careless camper who had stayed at the campsite prior to crews, had dumped hot charcoal briquettes in the woods. Forty eight hours later, the briquettes came back to life and started a fire.


Today, our folks were alerted to an unattended campfire in the vicinity of Stagger Inn.  This campfire was still very much alive and could have easily caused wildfire.  Again luck was on our side and we were able to prevent another wildfire. As you all know, we cannot be everywhere, so we really appreciate your help with extinguishing any fires that you find and letting us know if more help is needed. We are all in this effort together and unfortunately this is just the beginning of what may be a long fire season at Priest Lake. 


On Tuesday, July 14th, the Priest Lake area will be moving from Stage 1 to Stage II Fire Restrictions.  No campfires are allowed anywhere when we move to Stage II.   Please see http://idahofireinfo.blogspot.com/ for more information. 

Fire closes Kettle River Campground on Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — The Kettle River Campground has been closed as a precaution because of a human-caused fire burning nearby, according to officials from the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

A grass fire that was whipped up by winds on Monday forced evacuation of the campground.

Fire crews contained the fire today, officials said.  The campground closure remains in effect for fire monitoring.

The recreation area restricted fires to designated fire grates in developed campgrounds on June 17.  Investigators continue to look into the cause of Monday's fire.


Smoke makes return to Spokane bittersweet

WILDFIRES — Fond memories of more than two weeks of adventuring in Bolivia were dashed this morning as Horizon Airlines gave me an aerial tour of the hardship the region has suffered from wildfires while I've been gone.

My return flight from Seattle to Spokane began with Glacier Peak and Mount Baker (top in photo above) rising into beautiful blue skies that deteriorated into a pall of smoke spreading eastward from just east of the Cascades crest.

The Carlton Complex fires are still burning in the Methow Valley region (top smoke cloud in photo above) and forest fires just northwest of Leavenworth (lower smoke plume in photo) are adding to the smoke issue. The Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests are reporting that weekend lightning storms ignited more than 25 fires in the area, mostly small, but significant in all.

  • Trail and area closures are in effect for public and firefighter safety.  Contact local ranger district offices or go to the forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/okawen  for closure information.

While away, I've used the Internet to scan stories of the South Hill Bluff fire, the Greenbluff fires, the Fishtrap Lake-area fire, the big wind storm that toppled trees and left thousands of homes without power, and the ongoing Carlton Complex fires that have burned hundreds of homes and toasted mule deer winter range.

Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop was evacuated until firefighters took control of fire and power was restored in that area and the popular destination resort was reopened. Drive up the North Cascades Highway a ways and you can hike to Cutthroat Lake under clear, bluebird skies.


Today, I got an aerial reality check.

Fires are burning elsewhere, too, including the uncontained 19,000-acre Big Cougar Fire burning in rough Snake River country 24 miles south of Lewiston and the1,250-acre High Range fire near White Bird, Idaho.


Little Spokane River spot fire chars Knothead trail

HIKING — Knothead has become a blackhead this month.

The popular trail destination above the Little Spokane River and overlooking the Spokane River was charred by a July 8 spot fire that occurred the day before the larger fires ignited and ran through the Lake Spokane area.

But the timber had been thinned and firefighters did a good job to build fire lines and keep fire from raising hell with the Little Spokane River Natural Area.

Check it out. While you're there, hike the entire 6.5-mile loop through the Van Horn, Edburg and Bass Conservation Area starting from the Indian Painted Rocks. (Discover Pass required).

Check out the two nifty new single track segments that have been completed in 2014 to help keep visitors of adjoining private land.  The most recent single track completed the first week of June is especially cool, with nifty rock work.

Lightning storms start fires in Washington forests

PUBLIC LANDS —Monday's afternoon thunderstorms led to many lightning strikes across the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and surrounding lands starting several new fires, the Forest Service reports.  Response crews were dispatched immediately.

See the report on small fires also reported on the Colville National Forest.

In northcentral Washington, the Stokes Road Fire is being managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources near Carlton and the Gold Creek area and is around 600 acres. Four Rappellers were dispatched up Foggy Dew Creek for a 0.75 acre fire around 4:00 p.m. yesterday. Other small fires reported:

  • South Ridge Methow, Piper Creek, tenth of an acre reported
  • West Buck Mountain, Methow RD, tenth of an acre, contained at 10:00 pm
  • Miner’s Ridge, Entiat RD, tenth of an acre, contained at 10:30 pm
  • French Cabin Junction, Cle Elum RD, quarter acre

Along with these reported fires were numerous smoke reports which fire suppression resources attempted to find in the field. These often can lay undetected in deep litter and duff layers on the ground or within trees undetected for days after a lightning event only to pop up later and spread as wildfires.  People should be aware of these conditions and report wildfires as noted below.

  • For general forest fire information on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, call 664-9314
  • To report a wildfire, call 911 or 1-800-258-5990. 


BLM to fight fire with fire at Fishtrap Lake

PUBLIC LANDS —  Slow-moving fires are planned for about 1,150 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management scablands southwest of Spokane near Fishtrap Lake starting this week to boost wildlife habitat and reduce the chance of intense wild fires during summer and fall.

The Spokane District will be conducting prescribed fires in the Fishtrap area of Spokane and Lincoln Counties, approximately 8.5 miles northeast of Sprague during the period from Wednesday, Jan. 15, through Feb. 28, depending on weather.

Smoke may be visible on active ignition days and for several days following, officials said, noting these burns are part of BLM's region-wide fire control program. A program of prescribed burns can help reduce the intensity and damage cause by natural fires, such as those that have burned in Lincoln County in recent years (photo above).

Says BLM:

Prescribed fire is used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and increase public and firefighter safety. It also helps meet a variety of resource management objectives: reducing hazardous fuels (surface or ladder fuels), and restoring habitats and ecosystems. To restore fire to its natural role in forests and rangelands, trained experts employ low intensity prescribed fire in the spring and fall, when weather conditions minimize escape and allow for controlled burning.

Trophy-size bummer for elk hunter with bull of a lifetime

HUNTING — A friend sent a message of holidays woe that only a lifelong hunter, who knows the odds of bagging a trophy bull elk, can fully appreciate. 

Read a Christmas letter today from a guy I hunted with a few times, back in the '80s. This year he shot a record-book bull elk at 11 yards in the first half-hour of the archery season. He took the head to a Thurston County taxidermist for mounting. On December 5, my friend, a lieutenant in the Olympia Fire Department, heard that the shop was on fire. Later, he drove out to take a look and noticed that there were few remains of any mounts in the ashes.

The fire since has been ruled an arson to cover a burglary, and the biggest trophy of Brian's life is gone.

Prescribed burns planned on Idaho Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — The fire-fighting season is winding down, and now, as burning conditions are controllable, the planned use of fire is about to begin for the benefit of forests health and wildlife habitat.

Here the plan from the Idaho Pandhandle National Forests:

National forest visitors this fall can expect to see occasional smoke and short term area closures due to planned prescribed fires in various locations across the Idaho Panhandle.

Hunters, hikers, campers and other forest visitors should check the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF) website for prescribed fire locations and updates before venturing into the woods this fall. Not all planned locations will be ignited this fall, but when conditions are right the forest website will be updated and fire crews will post signs in the area and visit nearby campsites prior to ignition.

For a full listing of potential prescribed fire sites, including maps, visit the IPNF Prescribed Fire web page or www.northidahorxfire.com.

“Our prescribed fires complement local community wildfire protection plans, and provide great benefits to forest health,” said District Ranger Chad Hudson. “The end result will be reduced wildfire risks for local communities, improved wildlife habitat and a large step toward restoring the forest’s resiliency to threats such as uncharacteristic fires, insects and disease.”

Active burning will occur at each site for a period of 2-3 days, with smoldering fire afterward until rain or snow extinguishes the fires. Burn areas can pose very hazardous conditions such as rapid and unpredictable spreading of flames, falling trees, heavy smoke and limited visibility, and rolling rocks and logs. Members of the public are urged to stay away from these areas during burning operations and for a few days afterward. If you plan on recreating or hunting in these project areas make sure you understand your location relative to the burn units. If you find yourself in an active burn area, you should travel downslope or away from the predominant path of flames, because fire typically burns fastest upslope. When burn dates or date ranges are forecasted, signs will be posted along access roads and near affected trailheads and trail junctions. Temporary access restrictions or closures may be utilized if deemed necessary for public safety.

Contact your local US Forest Service office.

Fires restricting public access; check before you go

PUBLIC LANDS – Wildfires scattered throughout the northwest are affecting access to niches of national forests and other lands the public normally has access to for hunting, fishing, camping, berry picking and other late-summer pursuits.

Glacier and Yellowstone Parks have had to close sections of road briefly because of fires.

Near Priest Lake, the road to Lookout Mountain was closed for a couple of days  recently and reopened as State Lands crews fought a small fire.

Huge areas of central and southern Idaho are closed by major forest fires as sportsmen plan their early-season hunts.

Most fires and restrictions can be tracked online at www.InciWeb.com.

Otherwise, call local ranger district offices for updates.

Firefighters storm Marie Creek blaze near Wolf Lodge

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest Service firefighters are continue to attack a four-acre wildfire today just east of Coeur d’Alene near Wolf Lodge, says Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman.

The fire is along Marie Creek, which includes a popular hiking trail two and a half miles north of I-90 and five miles east of the Wolf Lodge exit.

Smoke and firefighting aircraft may be visible from the interstate. 

The Marie Creek Fire is lightning caused and was first noted as a one-acre fire late Sunday night, Kirchner said.

Firefighters, including helicopters, Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and ground crews, spent Monday constructing fire line and dropping retardant to slow and contain the blaze. Firefighting actions today will include additional fire line construction, and water and retardant drops.

Firefighting efforts are complicated by the difficult terrain, he said.

"The closest private property is located more than a mile to the west, but at this time there are no threats to structures."

Further updates for this wildfire will be posted at www.inciweb.org

Colockum Tarps Fire threatens elk winter range

HUNTING — The wildfire — considred human-caused — that's already burned 80,000 acres near Ellensburg, is scorching the winter range of one of the state's most important elk herds.

The extent of the impacts is yet unknown, but the Colockum herd almost surely will be impacted this winter.  Beyond that, there's room for hope that the fire could be a net gain.  Assessments will come after the fire's out.

Read details in this story by Scott Sandsberry of the  Yakima Herald-Republic.

Washington State Parks join ban on fires

CAMPING — Fires and charcoal barbecue grills — even in designated campsites — have been temporarily banned in Washington State Parks starting today to coincide with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources ban on outdoor fires announced on Tuesday.

The statewide ban is in effect through Sept. 30 and prohibits campfires in developed campgrounds and other recreational fires, although State Parks leave the option open to allow campfires sooner if weather cooperates.

Campers at state parks will be allowed to use devices that allow for control of combustion, including propane and liquid gas stoves appropriate for camping and backcountry use; propane barbecue devices that do not use solid briquettes; propane or pressurized white gas warming devices that have a shield or base; and solid fuel citronella or other candles in a metal bucket or glass container. 

Fire claims Avery Trading Post along St. Joe River

FLY FISHING — BYOB if you’re heading to the Avery area of the St. Joe River this weekend.

The St. Joe Pub and Grill, formerly the landmark Avery Trading Post, went up in flames around 1 a.m. on Tuesday in a blaze that tested the will of locals to keep it from spreading.

The aftermath has left the town’s main drag a lot drier, and looking like a hockey player’s smile.

But the fishing continues to be excellent on the St. Joe River, said Ben Scheffelmaier of Scheffy’s Motel.

Following is a first-hand account of the fire from The Rev. Cynthia Wuts, who was with her family for a fly fishing adventure in the area when they just happened to be bunked in a hot spot that had nothing to do with fishing.

Around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, I was awakened by someone honking his horn on the street where were staying. We heard a couple guys yelling and I went to look out the window to see what the commotion was and saw some sparks flying and thought it was crazy kids partying and lighting fireworks, which is not unusual in Avery. 

Then I noticed that there was a brighter, orange glow, brighter than the street lights reflecting on the building across the street. I opened our door to the outside and saw that the tavern next door had flames shooting through the roof. I got (the others) out of bed and we got out of there as the two buildings are fairly close together. A wooden shed sits between them and it had lumber and old tires on the roof…not to mention the propane tank alongside the tavern.

My husband got us in the car and moved it a good distance away and when he determined it that the flames were still far enough away from our building, they … ran over to help one of the townspeople who had arrived with some fire hoses. The tavern was fully involved in just a matter of minutes and totally destroyed.

No one was hurt. However the thought I had as did most folks was "thank God this wasn't August" or the fire would have quickly ran up the forested hill behind the tavern and thrown enough embers to set other buildings (including a fuel pumping station just up the road from the tavern) on fire and it could have been a real catastrophe.

Avery is a very small village with mostly old wooden buildings in a narrow river canyon, so it wouldn't have taken long for falling embers to have started the rest of the town and surrounding forest on fire.

The next morning the owner of the fly fishing shop went up the mountain road on the opposite side of Avery and found where embers had fallen onto Kelly Crick Rd. about a 1/2 mile away. We were very thankful that someone driving by saw the flames and awakened the town folks. Had that not happened the fire would have spread to our place of lodging and we would've been jumping out the window!

Also we're thankful no one was injured while fighting the fire.
Here are some pictures we took…The first picture is the structure fully involved. Photo 2 is when it collapsed and the last one was taken the following morning around 10 a.m.

(BTW, I caught the biggest fish of the trip.)

Montana extends Clark Fork River closure due to fire

RIVERS — Fishermen are being displaced from a popular stretch of the Clark Fork River as firefighters try to control a nearby wildfire.  The closure announced Wednesday has been extended today.  

Here's the latest from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is closing an additional stretch of the Clark Fork River due to the expansion of the West Mullan Fire.  The river is now closed from Big Eddy Fishing Access Site (FAS) to US Forest Service Slowey Campground. This eight mile stretch will remain closed for recreating as long as fire activities continue.  The river was previously closed from Big Eddy FAS downstream to Dry Creek FAS, a five mile stretch of river.  
            In addition, FWP is closing the Big Eddy FAS at the town of Superior and the Dry Creek FAS. These FAS’s are closed in the interest of public safety while fire activity persists in the area.  People accessing the river above Big Eddy FAS need to be aware that this site is not available for use. There is no established public boat take-out available below Forest Grove FAS, which is 12 miles upstream of Big Eddy FAS. 
The West Mullan Fire is changing rapidly, so river users are advised to learn of the most current conditions before visiting this section of the Clark Fork River.  We will keep you informed of the updates and additional details on fire and drought-related restrictions and closures on the FWP website home page at fwp.mt.gov

Fire closes Clark Fork River near Superior

FISHING — The Clark Fork River has been closed from Big Eddy Fishing Access Site to Dry Creek Fishing Access Site along Interstate 90 because of operations related to fighting a wildfire northwest of Superior, Mont., the state Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department has announced. 

This is one of the more popular stretches among fly fishers who float the river to catch trout.

This section of river is closed in the interest of public safety while aircraft dip water out of the river to fight the West Mullan Fire.  This stretch will remain closed as long as fire activities continue.

Click here for updates.

Holiday fire toll in Boise: 12 fires, down from 15 last year…

So many years, I remember the end of the public fireworks display in Boise being followed immediately by a loud and extended chorus of fire truck sirens, responding to fireworks-sparked fires. It didn’t seem quite as bad or dramatic this year, despite the extremely dry conditions. The Boise Fire Department reports that it responded to 12 reports of fires yesterday on the Fourth of July, down slightly from 15 last year. Only one of this year’s blazes was not related to fireworks, though a number are still under investigation as to cause. “The vast majority of calls resulted in a quick response and little or no property damage,” the BFD reports.

There was a structure fire at a duplex on South Security Lane that resulted in serious damage; it was reported at 10 p.m., and crews found the roof partially ablaze; no one was injured. Though the cause remains under investigation, fireworks had been spotted in the area just before the fire ignited. Most of the other fires involved grass or brush.

What to know before you go to forests for holiday

PUBLIC LANDS — Fireworks are prohibited year-around on national forests, BLM lands, state wildlife lands and most other public lands. 

That's the first rule to know before heading out for the Fourth of July holiday.

Here are more considerations from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests:

Responsible Motorized Use.  Please stay on designated routes and obtain the appropriate travel maps before you go. On the Colville National Forest as well as the Coeur d’Alene River, Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Priest Lake Ranger Districts visitors should carry the FREE Motorized Vehicle Use Maps, available at Forest Service Offices. 

  • The Colville National Forest "Motorized Use Map" can be viewed online under Maps and Publications.

No mud bogging is allowed anywhere on National Forest System lands.  State traffic laws apply to all motor vehicles including off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and motorcycles of all types.

For the latest information on road conditions, including restrictions, closures and construction, visit the national Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Road Status” web page.       

Camping.  Camping is allowed for up to 14 days within any 30-day period in developed recreation sites, undeveloped recreation sites, campgrounds, wilderness areas and other general forest areas. Visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Recreation” web page to check the status of your favorite site.

Campfire Safety. Even if it’s “green,” please practice good sense by using caution with fire and smoking at all times, in all places.  Drown, stir and check your campfire for heat with your bare hand.  ALL fires must be DEAD OUT when left unattended and before leaving the site.

Keep it Clean to Avoid Bear Encounters!  Proper food storage practices are recommended throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and are required on the Sandpoint, Priest Lake and Bonners Ferry Districts. Bears often develop a strong liking for human and pet foods.  Store food in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof containers. Keep sleeping areas, tents and sleeping bags free from food and food odors. Wash up, change clothes and remove all scented articles nearby before going to bed.  Wild bears avoid people, but bears conditioned to human food can be aggressive and may be euthanized if problems occur. For more information on safety in bear country visit our “Food Storage” web page.

More info: contact your local Idaho Panhandle Forest Service office.

Fireworks cause death, destruction in 2012

Boys will be boys, as the saying goes.

Males between 8 and 21 years old were responsible for most of the 354 fireworks-related incidents reported in 2012, according to data released by the Washington State Fire Marshal's Office.

In all, there were 128 fires and 226 injuries, including 11 amputations and one death. The data come from reports submitted to the state Fire Marshal’s Office by fire departments and hospital emergency rooms.

One celebration turned deadly when a 61-one-year-old Richland, Wash. man was killed after attempting to relight an illegally obtained, professional display firework that failed to go off. Upon inspecting it and relighting it, the shell exploded, hitting him in the upper body and head.

In all, illegal fireworks were to blame for 26 fires and 64 injuries statewide last year around the holiday. The majority of incidents occurred on July 4. Most injuries occurred while a person held a firework in their hand, stood too close to lit fireworks, or leaned over fireworks.

Seven sparkler bomb incidents were reported, including two fires or explosions that caused facial, torso and hand injuries. Sparkler bombs are considered improvised explosive devices, which are illegal to manufacture or posses, said Lysandra Trejo, deputy state fire marshal.

Misuse of fireworks also damaged property. Seven residential fires accounted for $880,500 loss.

With another Independence Day just around the corner, authorities are reminding the public to stay safe.

Supervision of children 14 and under is critical in reducing emergency responses to fireworks incidents, Trejo said in a news release.

“Talk to your kids about fireworks and safety,” Trejo said. “Set family boundaries. Only adults should light fireworks.”

She added that fireworks should be stored in a secure location out of the reach and sight of curious children.

“Personal fireworks require personal responsibility,” she said.

She said those lighting fireworks should remember the three Bs of fireworks safety:

Be prepared – have water nearby and put pets indoors.

Be safe – only adults should light fireworks and,

Be responsible – clean up firework debris.

Keep an eye out for a listing of local fireworks laws in The Spokesman-Review on Monday.

More information about fireworks safety, public fireworks displays and the fireworks laws for your area also can be found at the Celebrate Safely website, www.wsp.wa.gov/fire/fireworks.htm

Suspects in Emmet church arsons: Convicted killer and four-time arsonist

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: EMMETT, Idaho (AP) — The Gem County Prosecutor has filed criminal charges against two men accused of intentionally setting fire to a pair of Emmett churches last month. One of the suspects charged Wednesday was convicted of killing his adoptive parents in 1989. Prosecutor Richard Linville charged 41-year-old Bradley Thomasson and 45-year-old William Dorahush Jr., with two counts of first-degree arson. Both were also charged with burglary and theft. Investigators say the men are responsible for the April 27 blazes that damaged Community Bible Church and First Baptist Church. Records show Thomasson spent 22 years in prison for killing his adoptive parents in Nez Perce County in 1989. Dorahush has a criminal record that includes four convictions for arson. Both churches are blocks from downtown Emmett and suffered extensive fire, smoke and water damage.

Wildlife benefits of prescribed burns easy to see

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Sinlahekin Wildlife Area manager Dale Swedberg doesn't just preach the gospel of rejuvenating wildlife habitat with controlled prescribed fires — he'll let you see for yourself.

A website with an eye-opening collection of photos compares historic photos of the Sinlanhekin Wildlife Area with photos of the same locations made in recent years.

 While the northcentral Washington landscape near Loomis has been improved in some ways, the most glaring observation is the increase in tree cover due to fire supression in the past 90 years.  Trees are good, but too many of them clogging the landscape eliminates the habitat diversity needed by wildlife.

Fire has been around as long as life because fire depends on living things to produce the fuels fire needs to exist. A person would think that there might be some important connections developed in such a long relationship. — Dale Swedberg

Resources for learning more about prescribed burns include:

Fires planned to boost wildlife habitat

WILDLIFE — Starting as early as Monday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to ignite controlled burns on parts of two wildlife areas in northeast Washington to reduce wildfire risks and enhance wildlife habitat.

Depending on weather conditions, controlled burns are set for parts of state's Sherman Creek Wildlife Area on the west side of Lake Roosevelt in Ferry County and at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County.
The controlled burns – planned for March, April and May – will cover about 600 acres, and will be conducted on parcels ranging from 15 acres to several hundred acres, said Dale Swedberg, manager of WDFW’s Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. Additional burns are planned for next fall and the spring of 2014.
Swedberg said the burns in both wildlife areas were delayed from last fall, when burn bans followed by heavy rain prompted WDFW to wait until this year, he said.
Read on for more details.

Burned bear cub recovering, may be released

WILDLIFE — An orphaned black bear cub burned in a wildfire last summer is recovering and may be released in June, an Idaho wildlife sanctuary official said.

The 4-month-old bear nicknamed “Boo Boo” was discovered by a fisherman in a tree along the Salmon River in August days after the 312-square-mile Mustang wildfire complex passed through the area.

The cub had second-degree burns on all four paws and was malnourished when U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game workers rescued him.

After spending a few weeks at the Idaho Humane Society, the cub has been rehabilitating since September in the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary near McCall. He lives in a 2-acre forested enclosure with five other orphaned cubs.

Snowdon board member Diane Evans-Mack said Boo Boo is on the road to a full recovery, according to the Ravalli Republic.

“You wouldn’t even be able to notice that his paws were ever burnt now,” she said. “We don’t see him every day, but even when we saw him in September, two weeks after the fire, we noticed just looking at the paws that they were much better. They were still a little bit sensitive, but he was climbing trees and running around.”

The sanctuary tracks the bears’ activity with cameras. Some of the pictures on the sanctuary’s website show Boo Boo and another of the bears playfully wrestling with each other at night.

Evans-Mack said the plan is to release Boo Boo into the wild in June, and he may be collared so the sanctuary can keep track of him.

“We are going to end up holding Boo Boo through the winter, and we’ll wait until the spring bear hunting season is over because he would be a little too naive to be out there,” she said.

The cub’s diet consists of fruit, greens and dry dog food.

“Dog food is actually something that helps him put on a lot of weight,” Evans-Mack explained. “We have interns that go in and use dry dog food, and that puts a lot of fat on the bears. We get donations from local markets of fruits and some greenery that they would discard anyway. We give them salmon sometimes. ”

Parched into October: When has it been this bad?

"We have not seen wildfire conditions this bad in October in a lifetime,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said Thursday.

“I’m concerned that the shorter days and colder weather will lull some people into thinking it’s safe to build campfires or bonfires. We need everyone to be cautious, alert and aware of the burn restrictions.” 

Virtually all state and federal agencies have extended restrictions on burning — including no fires outside of grated pits in designated campgrounds — at least through Oct. 15.

Campfire ban extended at Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — No campfires will be allowed at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area except at designated grated campfire sites at least through Sunday.  See the park's announcement issued Monday: 

In accordance with the 2012 Superintendent’s Compendium, Acting Superintendent Natalie Gates has extended the ban for campfires on the exposed lakebed through midnight on October 7, 2012.

Campfires in park-provided fire grates at developed campgrounds are allowed.  The use of gas and propane barbeques and self-contained stoves is allowed in the recreation area. 

Campfires are never allowed on the beach area above the exposed lakebed.

Impact of fires on wildlife won’t be known until spring

WILDLIFE LANDS — Wild fires continue to char and in some cases nuke forests and other wildlife habitat in scattered areas around the Inland Northwest.  But the future isn't all black.

Before-after-photos at Naneum Lake (above) hint at the impact of the Table Mountain Fire, which has spread over thousands of acres along with other forest fires in the Ellensburg-Leavenworth-Wenatchee area. The fires were ignited by lightning storms around Sept. 9, 2012.

Some areas have been reopened to public access, but hunters need to check ahead with the Forest Service, DNR and Washington Fish and Wildlife Department for closures to distinct areas in the Wenatchee region.

This photo comparison doesn't look good, but Washington Fish and Wildlife experts say the damage/benefits to the Colockum elk herd won't be known until next spring when they can assess the ratio of hot-burned areas with the areas that  were lightly burned or skipped-over by the flames.

The fires ultimately will be good for wildlife.

The question is whether the recovery will be measured in years or decades.

Peak fire season tips for hunters

HUNTING — It's not news that the fields are dry and fire danger is extreme.

But don't let your guard down when you go out hunting or recreating.  One thoughtless moment in these conditions can be costly.

Hunters, who have an especially big responsibility to be fire conscious, should:

  • Drive only on established roads.
  • Avoid roads with tall vegetation in the middle track.
  • Never park over dry grass and other vegetation.
  • Carry a fire extinguisher—or water-filled weed sprayer—shovel, axe, and, a cell phone for communications in addition to other outdoor safety gear.
  • Restrict camping activities to designated camping areas.
  • Not build campfires.
  • Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.

Being able to respond is essential in the first few seconds of a fire start when it is small and easily extinguished.

Colockum remains closed by fire danger; region dry, dry, dry

PUBLIC LANDS — Be sure to check ahead for possible fire restriction before setting out for a hunting or camping trip this weekend. Closures are in effect in some areas as fires continue to burn in the absense of fall rains that normally would have wet the landscape by now.

A vast tract of state land including the Colockum area and Stemilt basin are closed to hunting and other recreation due to danger from the Table Mountain Complex fires.

Sgt. Kent Sisson of Chelan County Emergency Management said fire personnel are in the process of posting information boards in the area and signs alerting hunters and other recreators. Fires, including campfires, are also prohibited until further notice.


The lack of September rain has left big-game without a "fall green-up," the sprouting of green vegetation in the warm "Indian Summer"  after a September rain shower. This greenup is very important to game putting on fat for fall.

The green-up or lack of it factors into their winter survival.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Mount Adams fire closes part of Pacific Crest Trail

TRAILS — A wildfire burning near Mount Adams forced the closure of part of the Pacific Crest Trail late Thursday.

The closed segment of the trail is between the Williams Mine Trailhead off Forest Road 23 to the junction of the Divide Trail on the Mt. Adams, Ranger District, said Ken Sandusky of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Call the district office for more information, (509) 395-3402.

The Cascade Creek fire, apparently sparked by lightning storms near Mount Adams on Sept. 8, has burned 9,800 acres. Firefighters say its only about 50 percent contained.

BLM’s Fishtrap Lake trails mostly untouched by fire

PUBLIC LANDS — The 350-acre fire on BLM land that prompted a temporary evacuation of Fishtrap Lake Resort recently was fairly well contained with minimal damange, officials say.

The photo above shows the edges of the fire burning up to the Farmer Landing trailhead west of Fishtrap Lake.

"Horseback riding and hiking along the trail from that trailhead should still be through unburned landscape,” said Steven Smith, BLM recreation manager in Spokane.

“So far, about 54 different fires in Eastern Washington have affected BLM lands,” said Scott Pavey, Spokane District spokesman, noting that some fires farther west are still burning. “A rough total of about 42,500 BLM acres have burned.”

Idaho forest dryness spikes; fire danger extreme

PUBLIC LANDS — "We were sitting pretty good a couple of weeks ago, but there's been marked increase in field dryness," said Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forest public affairs officer, getting word out that potential for forest fires have changed remarkably in just the past week.

"Monitoring stations in the North Fork Coeur d'Alene, near St. Maries and in the Selkirks are registering in the top 3 percent of dryness ever recorded."

Forest Service plans for annual fall controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat and clear out forest understory to reduce fire danger next year are on hold until conditions are less volatile, he said.

"Even if it wasn't so dry in the Panhandle, the smoke that's moved into the region would be enough to put off our controlled burning plans because of air quality requirements," he said.

"At least the smoke is a good reminder that there are fires all around us. We haven't had any significant fires, but we're not out of the woods yet."