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Wednesday, November 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Huge swath of Idaho Panhandle north of I-90 to close Sunday because of wildfires

A huge area of the Coeur d'Alene Ranger District will be closed to public access because of wildfire danger starting Sunday, Aug. 30. (U.S. Forest Service)
A huge area of the Coeur d'Alene Ranger District will be closed to public access because of wildfire danger starting Sunday, Aug. 30. (U.S. Forest Service)

WILDFIRES -- Due to the increasing number of wildfires in the area and concern for public safety, state and federal agencies have issued a temporary emergency wildfire closure for all public lands north of I-90, south of Forest Road 332 (Bunco Road), east of Highway 95 and west of the Idaho/Montana border.

That includes access to much of the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River. That's bad news for bowhunters with plans for the weekend opening of archery elk season.

This emergency closure includes all National Forest System lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, and state endowment forest lands within the described boundaries, according to the just-posted interagency media release.

The emergency closure will start at 12:01 am, on Sunday Aug. 30 in order to allow time for members of the public to remove any trailers, hunting equipment or other property currently left on federal lands within the new closure area. Areas already under emergency closures will not be reopened for property retrieval. Once the new closure is implemented on Sunday morning, only private land owners and residents will be allowed past barricades to access their property.

“The decision to implement this emergency closure was not easy to make, but it is absolutely necessary to protect the public as a large number of fires are burning in the area, and more fires are being detected almost every day,” said Mary Farnsworth, Idaho Panhandle National Forest Supervisor.

Starting Sunday morning, it will be unlawful to be within the emergency closure boundary. Violation of the emergency closure is punishable by a fine of $150 to $5,000 depending on the severity of the violation. However, the following roads and areas are exempt from the closure and will remain open:

-Forest Road 332 between Bunco Road and Forest Road 278.
-The North Fork Coeur d’Alene River Road from Kingston, Idaho to Shoshone Base Camp.
-HWY 9 from Prichard, Idaho to Thompson Pass.
-Beaver Creek Road (FR 456), Dobson Pass Road, and 9 Mile Creek Rd, between Babins Junction and Wallace, Idaho.
-Mokins Bay Campground.
-English Point Recreation Area near Hayden Lake.
-Wallace Forest Conservation Area at Blue Creek Bay, Bureau of Land Management.
-Shoshone County Airport, Bureau of Land Management.
-Private lands within the emergency closure remain open to property owners and residents.

                Private lands within the emergency closure area have not been evacuated. Property owners and residents who wish to access their property must obtain credentials for obtaining access through the barricades. Credentials may be obtained by bringing proof of residency or ownership to either of the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District offices in Fernan or Smelterville, Idaho.  Offices will be open through the weekend from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and on week days during regular business hours. Obtaining credentials is a critical step for safety because it allows firefighters to know who may be in the closure area, and where they are, in case of significant fire spread or new fire starts in the area. In some cases, due to fire activity, property owners and local residents may be required to take longer or less direct routes to their property. Alternate routes are established for public safety and may be modified as fires spread, or due to ongoing firefighting activities.

For more information see the Idaho Panhandle National Forest website.

For mapping updates, see the Wildfire Activity Web Map.

For current wildfire information, including maps and information center phone numbers, see the InciWeb site.

Outdoors blog

Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.

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