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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

View from above raises pall of concern

UPDATED 1:45 p.m. with news of fire-related Lake Roosevelt boat launch closures.

WILDFIRES -- I flew from Seattle to Spokane this morning after 10 days off the grid in Alaska. Heartbreaking is the first word that came to mind as I watched the smoke rising from east of the Cascades and spreading eastward across the state, mixing with the grayness rising from fires farther east.

Heartbreaking was the word that came to mind even before reading the details of fallen young firefighters in the newspaper's Wildfires 2015 coverage.

Wildfires in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were out of control on Thursday -- and that was BEFORE winds last night and today whipped the flames to a new level.  Reports coming in today are not good

Ray Kresek, retired firefighter and fire lookout historian, reminds us:

On Aug. 20, 1910, the Great Idaho Fire burned 3,000,000 acres in two days, killed 87 firefighters, and destroyed five towns.  Numerous fires between Spokane & Glacier Park, Salmon River & Canada all blew up in a windstorm similar to the one predicted to hit NE Washington (Friday, Aug. 21).  This is the most critical wildfire situation NE Washington has seen in modern history. 

Hunters must be tuned in to the serious fire situation as hunting seasons begin opening. Private timberlands are closed to public access and many areas of public lands are restricted in one way or another, with road access being closed to new areas on a daily basis.

Fishermen are affected in many areas, such as those who might be planning to travel the Gold Pass route from St. Regis to the St. Joe River.  Road 50 over Gold Pass has been closed by the Snow Peak Complex fires.

Campers and backpackers have to pick their destinations carefully, too.  Numerous trails have been closed by fire activity throughout the region, including Scotchman Peak trail, one of the most popular trails in North Idaho. The Scotchman fire, which started northeast of Clark Fork on Aug. 13, is reported at 2,876 acres today.

And certainly, I hope no one needs a reminder to forgo campfires, smoking and any other potential fire-causing actions.

Even boaters have to make a plan to avoid fire closures.  Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, has closed all boat ramps and day-use areas in the Kettle Falls District except for the Kettle Falls marina and boat ramp due to expanding wildfires.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just announced that federal emergency aid has been made available to the State of Washington to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts in the area affected by wildfires beginning on August 13, 2015, and continuing.

Here's a snapshot of SOME of the out-of-control wildfires in the region on Thursday. The reports will be much worse before the winds subside today:

GOODELL (Newhalem).  8/20: 2,000 ac. 0 ppl. 0 eng. 0% contained.

CHELAN (Antoine, Deer).  8/14. 8/20:  68,500 ac.  526 ppl. 51 eng.  30% contained.

WOLVERINE (Holden, Stehekin).  6/29. 8/20: 41,000 ac. 217 ppl. 1 eng.  10% contained.

FIRST CREEK (Lake Chelan).  8/14. 8/20: 1,900 ac. 192 ppl. 27 eng. Evacuated.

BLACK CANYON (Pateros).  8/20: 11,400. 15 ppl. 2 eng. 0%

OKANOGAN (Lime, Blue, Tunk, Beaver, N Omak).  8/10. 8/20: 91,300 ac. 729 ppl. 65 eng. {Lime 47,600, Tunk 7,800, Beaver 32,000}.  4 towns evacuated.

TWISP RIVER.  8/19. 8/20: 8,000 ac.  Twisp, Winthrop evacuated.

NINEMILE (Oroville).  8/15: 4,700 ac.  80% contained.

NORTH STAR (Colville IR).  8/20: 55,000 ac. 282 ppl. 12 eng. 0%.

KETTLE CREST (Stickpin).  8/20: 41,500 ac. 431 ppl. 7 heli. 33 eng.  0%.

GRAVES (Sherman Pass).  8/20: 1,600 ac. 11 ppl. 3 eng.  0%.

GOLD HILL (Kettle Falls).  8/20: 550 ac. 144 ppl. 8 eng. 

CARPENTER (Fruitland).  8/20:  9,600 ac. 300 ppl. 32 eng.  10%.

MARBLE (Addy/Arden).  8/20: 3,100 ac. 47 ppl. 7 eng.  10%.

KANIKSU (S Baldy, Tower).  8/20: 8,300 ac. 234 ppl. 7 eng.  0%.

PARKER (Bonners Fy, ID).  8/20: 6,000 ac.

GRIZZLY (Pomeroy, WA).  8/20: 12,000 ac. 106 ppl. 5 eng.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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