Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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 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:
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.
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. ”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NO GREENUP COULD IMPACT BIG GAME
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
PUBLIC LANDS — Citing extreme fire danger in Eastern Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just issued emergency restrictions — including a restrictions on target shooting, smoking and open fires — for all state wildlife lands.
Many of these restrictions already are in place on national forests.
Read on for the details.
FOREST FIRES — The map above from the Wenatchee National Forest shows areas off limits to visitors because of forest fires in the Central Washington area.
The closures affect hikes in prime season and hunters out for Washington's early High Buck Hunt that opened Saturday.
BACKPACKING — After reading my post this morning about fire-related closures affecting hikers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Stephanie Akker of Kennewick emailed me the photo (above) snapped Saturday from the Colchuck Lake area as she decided to evacuate during the night to safety.
I was happy to see your article on-line as I have been scouring for more info since we backpacked out of Colchuck, in the dark, Saturday night.
Attached is a photo of the fire from our campsite on the north end of Colchuck. We day hiked into the Enchantments Saturday after camping at Colchuck Friday night. We chose to evacuate after watching the fire grow dramatically over the course of 24 hours and also considering the proximity to the parking lot.
Yes, we had to forgo our coveted permit, but felt it better safe than sorry.
Read on for her photo of Colchuck Lake, a scene that helps you understand why it was no easy decision to leave.
HIKING — Many backpackers with coveted permits for the prime September season in the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in northcentral Washington are finding their plans up in smoke.
Area includes Eightmile Road, Colchuck, Stuart, Eightmile, Caroline, and Trout lakes, and the Windy Pass portion of the Enchantment area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness due to a fire burning Many Enchantment area overnight camping permits are cancelled. However, the Enchantment Basin itself remains open at this time with access via Snow Creek Trail. Please call the Wenatchee River Ranger Station for more information on which permits are cancelled.
See a photo and report from a backpacker who self-evacuated Colchuck Lake Saturday night as fires closed in.
Read on for the latest press release and details from the Wenatchee National Forest.
WILDLIFE REHABILITATION — Boo Boo, the black bear cub found by fire crews with second degree burns on all four paws last month, has been moved to a rehabilitation area in central Idaho.
Idaho Fish and Game biologist Jeff Rohlman picked up the young bruin today at the Humane Society shelter in Boise where he has been recuperating.
Rohlman took the bear to the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary in the mountains outside McCall. The sanctuary is dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Since 1989 it has housed and cared for a range of large and small mammals and birds in distress from injury, loss of parents, or loss of habitat.
Boo Boo weighed in at 46 pounds today, up from just 23 pounds when Fish and Game wildlife veterinarian Mark Drew transferred the bear to the Idaho Humane Society on Aug. 31.
He will spend the first night in a pen about the size of a single-car garage, which is attached to a two-acre enclosure at the sanctuary. When released from the pen, he would be free to roam the enclosure.
If he continues to mend, he would be released to wild. Perhaps as soon as later this fall.
He was rescued August 26 by firefighters working on the Mustang Fire burning north of Salmon. His feet were badly burned, and he was treated initially at Idaho Fish and Game's Wildlife Health Lab in Caldwell.
The young bear has continued to improve. No infection in any of his foot pads has been detected despite second-degree burns on all four feet, Drew said.
PUBLIC LANDS — Fire fighters have their hands full in forests and lowlands from blazes started by Saturday night lightning storms and fanned by Sunday's huge winds.
A Facebook friend in Wenatchee says the orange on the skyline is more than a little frightening.
At least four fires in the Coulee City-Grand Coulee-Almira area are prompting evacuations, with around 8,000 acres burned.
“Huge fires are burning here in Grand Coulee,” reports angler Connie Mcquaid from her home at 10 p.m.
“The switchyard has had explosions — I've seen them. The whole west side of Banks Lake looks like it's on fire. Parts of Grand Coulee west of the canal are being evacuated. The air in town is unbreathable. They sky from my view is all orange.”
A pro football player who claims God told him to start a fire at his apartment complex in Liberty Lake will remain in jail amid concerns about his mental health.
Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, who was dismissed from the Spokane Shock arena football team after his arrest June 14, repeatedly claimed to be Jesus Christ, including to an elderly woman who was at the hospital when Ellison was treated for smoke inhalation, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed.
“He may have some mental issues,” Ahmed said.
Ellison also told Shock general manager Ryan Rigmaiden “that he was Jesus Christ, and that he was part of the rapture, and that God told him to start the fire,” Ahmed said. “He did not believe it (the fire) was going to harm him because God told him he'd protect him.”
Ellison told Rigmaiden he started the fire with a marijuana blunt.
Ellison, a former standout defense back for the University of Southern California Trojans, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a grand jury indictment charging him with malicious use of fire to damage commercial property. He faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted.
His public defender, Kim Deater, asked for Ellison to be allowed to leave jail and live with his mother and brother in Los Angeles, though she said they wants him to undergo mental health treatment.
“They think that might be an issue,” Deater said.
Deater described Ellison as “a good friend, a good teammate, a good son, a good player.”
She said his success in football shows he can work toward a goal with a large group of people.
“That takes cooperation, that takes a bond, and that takes character,” Deater said.
She also said Ellison did not tell the elderly woman at the hospital that he was Jesus - he simply grasped her hand and prayed with her.
But Imbrogno ordered Ellison to stay in the Spokane County Jail after Ahmed described a series of bizarre behavior that included statements from a Shock dancer who said she fears Ellison.
“She became afraid of Mr. Ellison after he texted her specifically that he was Jesus Christ,” Ahmed said.
The woman, who was not identified, also said Ellison asked her to marry him just moments after meeting her.
He said Ellison's roommate, Chris Tucker, told investigators that Ellison told him he'd been Baptized just a few days before the fire. Tucker also said Ellison had offered him Vicodin to ease his pain while at an away game in Chicago recently.
It was Tucker who first realized there was a fire in the apartment he shared with Ellison.
The defensive lineman for the Shock told investigators he first thought the smoke was from burning food. He even took the batteries out of the smoke detector in his bedroom before he realized the fire was coming from Ellison's room, Ahmed said. He alerted Ellison to the fire, but Ellison told him “I'm good.” and didn't leave.
Ellison escaped the fire by jumping from a window of the third-floor apartment. The fire caused about $100,000 in damage. Ahmed emphasized that children live next door to Ellison's apartment.
Ellison was drafted in the sixth round by the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He was released by the team following a May 2010 arrest in San Diego on a controlled-substance charge after police reportedly found 100 Vicodin tablets in his car without a prescription. The charges was dropped.
Ellison joined the Seattle Seahawks but was released shortly before the 2010 season opener.
A pro football player who leapt from his burning third-floor apartment in Liberty Lake Thursday said he started the blaze with a marijuana blunt because God told him to, authorities say.
Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, a starting linebacker/defensive back for the Spokane Shock arena football team, initially told firefighters that he’d been smoking in bed, but evidence collected at the scene didn’t match that explanation, said Spokane Valley Fire Marshal Kevin Miller.
A man accused of trying to light his apartment complex on fire gave a surveillance camera the middle-finger salute before doing so, fire officials allege.
Ian W. Godfrey, 29, said he was angry with a flier being distributed at the HiFumi En Apartments, 926 E. 8th Ave., when he lit one on fire and walked through the building, according to the Spokane Fire Department.
The smoke triggered the apartment's overhead sprinklers. Fire officials suspected arson, and the apartment manager recognized Godfrey from the surveillance video.
Godfrey was arrested that day for attempted first-degree arson. He was released on his own recognizance after appearing in Superior Court Wednesday.
A 13-year-old boy has been arrested allegedly setting fire to a vacant home in north Spokane last month.
The boy was booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center after being arrested at Glover Middle School. He was to appear before a judge on Monday, officials said.
Investigators with the Spokane Fire Department say the boy confessed to setting fire to a home at 4218 N. Ash St. on March 30. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze, which was confined to one bedroom and the roof area above that room. The rest of the home suffered extensive heat and smoke damage.
The suspect faces a charge of first-degree arson.
A truck fire outside an East Sprague Avenue motel was spurred by a lover's triangle and fueled by not just a Molotov cocktail but the promise of methamphetamine in return.
Donald S. Georgette was staying at the Maple Tree Motel, 4824 E. Sprague Ave., with a woman who was trying to end her relationship with Odean B. Chappel, 44, when Georgette received threatening text messages from Chappel around Feb. 5, according to court records filed last week.
Georgette's 1975 Ford truck was set on fire Feb. 6 between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
A woman who was staying in a shed at 1828 E. Riverside Ave., told fire investigators two men prepared a Molotov cocktail there using a beer bottle, rag and gasoline while they discussed doing a job for Chappel, documents say.
One of those men told investigatorshe later saw Chappel give the other man, Jesse James Icard, 43, methamphetamine as a payment for burning the truck.
Chappel has been arrested and is due in court today on arson, harassment and manufacture of an incendiary device charges.
Icard still is at large.
No one wants to drive a car with a reputation for catching fire after an accident. When a Chevrolet Volt caught fire three days after being destroyed in NHTSA crash testing a media storm and federal investigation soon followed.
Journalists were quick to paint the bigger, scarier picture that the Volt fire brought into question the safety of all electric and hybrid-electric vehicles currently working their way into American driveways. The reason for this is the Volt, along with Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and others, all share one key breakthrough in electric vehicle technology: rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Prior to the Chevy Volt fire mentioned above, the biggest threat to consumers’ acceptance of electric vehicles as a safe and practical alternative to gasoline powered cars was range anxiety, or the fear that electric cars driven too far from the nearest charging station will run out of power, stranding their passengers.
The development of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in cars such as the Volt helped significantly extend the range of plug-in electric vehicles and had the potential to play a huge role in calming range anxiety.
Then the Volt caught fire three days AFTER crash testing in a NHTSA parking lot. People aren’t surprised when a gasoline-powered car catches fire in an accident, but the Volt fire was different; weird and creepy, like the ark of the covenant smoldering in a warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Paranoia spewed from the press that automaker’s new electric vehicles could potentially be as dangerous as an elderly woman cooking over an open flame in a polyester top.
Bob Lutz, who helped champion the Volt to production in 2007 and now consults for General Motors, sternly refuted the hoopla.
“250,000 conventional gasoline-powered cars catch fire every year in the U.S. without any media panic,” said Lutz. “Where is the outrage? Where are the congressional hearings?” (1)
In support of Lutz’s point, the NHTSA failed to follow GM’s policy of fully discharging the Volt’s battery after a serious crash, allowing a fluid leak to reach the battery electronics and ignite a fire. In a real-world scenario, first responders should be trained to discharge the battery of the Volt or any other electric car at the scene of an accident, preempting the threat of an eventual fire.
Tesla for one has already worked with first responders to establish steps to safely handle crashed electric vehicles. Nonetheless, U.S. auto-safety regulators are currently examining the safety of lithium-ion batteries in all plug-in electric vehicles in the wake of the Volt crash test fire.
“I want to make this very clear: the Volt is a safe car,” Jim Federico, GM’s chief engineer, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are working cooperatively with NHTSA as it completes its investigation. However, NHTSA has stated that based on available data, there’s no greater risk of fire with a Volt than a traditional gas-powered car.” (2)
Aside from the Volt, the Nissan leaf went on sale in 2011 as the first mass-market plug-in electric car in United States. There hasn’t been a reported fire involving more than 8,000 Leafs on U.S. roads, Katherine Zachary, a spokeswoman for Nissan, said in an email. (2)
“The Nissan Leaf battery pack has been designed with multiple safety systems in place to help ensure its safety in the real world. All of our systems have been thoroughly tested to ensure real-world performance,” she said.
General Motors announced recently that adding a steel reinforcement to the steel structure around the batter back of the Volt and a small bracket on the battery coolant reservoir to stop possible leaks from reaching the battery should be the only changes that need to be made to the car.
NHTSA has since crashed a Volt with these changes on December 22 and found the battery compartment was not penetrated and no coolant leakage occurred. To be on the safe side, NHTSA has kept an eye on the wrecked vehicle since the crash test and will continue to do so for another week.
The agency said from the results of the test thus far GM’s changes to the Volt should take care of the issue.
Both the Leaf and Volt received the NHTSA’s top crash-test rating this year. As automakers begin to expand their plug-in electric vehicle lineups in the months and years to come, we should be anxious to put anxieties new and old of the electric car behind us and embrace it as a major step towards loosening the world’s dependence on fossil fuel.
Picture: Robin Wulffson, M.D
A medical marijuana patient contacted when a fire broke out at his Greenacres home told police he had been prescribed pot because of arthritis in his hand caused by “too much homework,” authorities say.
The 19-year-old man and his 22-year-old roommate had 27 marijuana plants at his father's home in the 2500 block of South Timberlane Drive, which they are legally able to have under the state's medical marijuana law.
The plants were not seized after the fire last Friday, and neither man was arrested, but Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan sent out a news release today that said Detective Travis Hansen asked the men what their special ailments were because “they were so young and appeared to be fit and in good health.”
In addition to the 19-year-old's reported homework-induced arthritis, the 22-year-old said he had severe pain in one of his feet. Reagan said suspicions were aroused when one of the tenants told a fire inspector had had “smoked a bowl” and left to get something to eat.
But the fire does not appear to be caused by smoked marijuana, rather the 19-year-old may have discarded a cigarette in bark outside the home, said Bill Clifford, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.
“He smokes a lot, both cigarettes and marijuana,” Clifford said. “He reminded me of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Damage is estimated at $300,000, Clifford said. The home is insured.
The man's 53-year-old father suffered burns to right arm, neck and face while escaping the blaze, which began while he was downstairs watching TV. A smoke alarm alerted him to the blaze.
A neighbor also was treated for smoke inhalation he suffered while stopping the fire from spreading to his home.
HUNTING — Fires burning in Idaho’s backcountry have state and federal land managers to close roads and trails in some areas, including the Idaho Panhandle.raised concerns about public safety and hunter access.
Those closures may affect access to some hunting units.
Idaho Fish and Game officials say they will not recommend closing hunts or altering season dates in response to fire restrictions. Most fires are not large enough to affect an entire hunt unit, they say.
Hunters affected by a fire closure can adjust their schedule to hunt later in the season or exchange general tags to hunt in a different area. But tags must be exchanged before the season begins.
Hunters with controlled hunt tags affected by a fire closure may exchange them for general season tags before the controlled hunt begins. But controlled hunt fees would not be refunded.
Fish and Game will consider requests for rain checks or refunds in the event that access to a hunting unit is blocked by fire. Hunters requesting a rain check will be required to submit their tags and permits with a letter describing the conditions of their request.
Rain checks would be evaluated case-by-case at the end of the hunting season. Rain checks will be valid in 2012 and offered only for the same species and hunt area as the hunter held in 2011.
Written requests should be sent to the license section at Fish and Game, P.O. Box 25, Boise ID 83707 when the season is over.
For updates on fires and access restrictions, go online to the Forest Service fire incident website.
PUBLIC LANDS — With scattered fires burning throughout the region, hunters and campgers should call ahead to Forest Service offices before heading out to national forests this week.
One friend planning a trip to Montana's Bitterroot Valley had to revise his plans when he called and learned that roads were closed to the trailhead for the lake he planned to fish.
Idaho Panhandle National Forests today are reporting that more than 70 fires hav ignited since Sept. 1 and seven lightning-caused fires are still active, ranging from 20 to more than 150 acres.
Read on for details on current fires burning on the Idaho Panhandle:
ST. MARIES, Idaho (AP) — A psychologist has found a North Idaho woman is fit to stand trial in the shooting death of her uncle in May.
The Coeur d’Alene Press reports Daniel Hayes of Hayden Lake found 28-year-old Melisa R. Bates could both understand the charge against her and help her attorney with her defense.
Bates is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Robert D. Marek at his house eight miles south of St. Maries. Court records say Bates had been staying with Marek.
Benewah County Prosecutor Douglas Payne said Marek was shot with a handgun and beaten with a metal rod and an attempt was made to burn his body.
Bates is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 22 in St. Maries before Magistrate Patrick McFadden.
An “unintended” voice mail left on an arson victim's cell phone helped identify suspects in a Spokane Valley house fire last week.
The home's renter, Pavel Aleksandrov, said he received what appeared to be an unintentional voice mail on July 23 in which he could hear Sergey A. Kravchenko, 27; Maksim P. Oboznyy, 21, and another man talking about how they should go to his home at 4418 E. 15th Ave., according to court documents.
The rental home was set on fire shortly after, causing $100,000 in damage, and Aleksandrov discovered his television and laptop computer had been stolen. Aleksandrov told police he was the foreman of a construction company in Louisiana in 2009 when the company could not make payroll.
Kravchenko also worked for the company, and he and another employee were upset about what they claimed were lost wages, according to court documents.
Kravchenko and Oboznyy were arrested Friday, and suspect Roman I. Ryakhovskaya, 21, of Nine Mile Falls, turned himself in Saturday. Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest a fourth suspect, Aleksander N. Shingarey, 23, (pictured) who is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree arson.
The three others suspects also are charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree arson; Ryakhovskaya also is charged with first-degree arson; Kravchenko and Oboznyy also are charged with residential burglary and second-degree theft for allegedly stealing a TV and computer before Ryakhovskaya allegedly set house on fire.
A neighbor identified the suspects through photo montages and said he'd fired a shot out his window to try to scare them away after they told him to mind his own business, according to court documents.
Shingarey, who was arrested last summer after a shooting on the South Hill, last gave an address in the 4000 block of East 23rd Avenue in Spokane.
Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
A Coeur d’Alene police officer saved a family of four from a structure fire early Friday.
The police department received a report of a structure fire about 4:33 a.m., according to a news release. Officer Gus Wessel was the first to arrive at the fire on West Vista Drive, where he found the home’s attached garage in flames.
Wessel entered the home and woke an adult female and three children and escorted them, along with the family pet, to safety, the news release said. He also moved the family’s car away from the fire to prevent damage to it.
Wessel has been full time with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department for three years, where he has been assigned to the patrol division.
Prior to his full-time employment with the department, Wessel worked as a bike patrol officer assigned to the downtown summer program.