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Thursday, October 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Crews battle flames near Colville, Springdale

As forest fires continued to burn in Stevens County and across Eastern Washington, officials banned fireworks and open burning.

Hot temperatures and winds led to red flag warnings.

On Friday, the 21 Mile Grade fire north of Keller, Washington, jumped fire lines but crews were able to get it back under control, said fire information officer Kathy Moses.

“They’ve been using a lot of retardant on the north, the east and the south sides,” she said.

The western edge of the fire is held back by the San Poil River. Steep and rocky terrain to the north of the fire has hampered efforts to put in a fire line.

The fire was estimated at 2,000 acres midday Saturday and was expected to grow. “The wind is coming in,” she said Saturday evening. “The fire behavior could be erratic at times.”

The Rail Canyon fire near Springdale, which sent plumes of smoke into the air that could be seen from Spokane, is now being called the 231 fire. It stretched 850 acres Saturday evening.

Though one fire boss has said the fire was caused by fireworks, Eric Keller of the Department of Natural Resources said the cause is officially under investigation. “We still have an investigator out there looking at it,” he said.

Two homes were destroyed along with several outbuildings. The fire is not contained, though firefighters have dug breaks on the south and east sides, Keller said.

Residents of about 50 homes were asked to evacuate as the Lake Spokane Campground was closed to the public to be used as a command post.

Highway 231 is closed between Ford and Reservation Road, but it is expected to reopen sometime today.

Stevens County Fire District 1 encouraged the cancellation of three fireworks shows Saturday night because of the high fire danger. The Loon Lake show was canceled and Suncrest and Deer Lake Resort have rescheduled their fireworks for today.

The Williams fire near Colville grew only a few acres overnight Friday and was held in place Saturday. “We’ve had a lot of aircraft over the incident today and they’ve made good progress,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigny.

The size is estimated at 280 acres. A handful of homes may be evacuated.

Many more people living near the Colville city limits are being told to prepare in case they need to evacuate. Residents can call the fire information hotline at (509) 684-7563 for more details.

“The fire is definitely still active,” Sevigny said.

Stevens County Fire District 3 has requested help from several local fire districts, but crews are spread thin. “I think every incident is hurting for resources,” Sevigny said. “There’s only so many firefighters to go around.”

The Red Cross has two shelters for residents displaced by the fires, one at Colville High School that opened noon Saturday and another at Mary Walker High School in Springdale. The Springdale shelter housed a dozen firefighters and a displaced resident overnight Friday, and four additional residents registered Saturday morning, said Red Cross executive director Megan Snow.

North Idaho has not escaped the flames. A lightning storm that passed through on June 29 started numerous fires, and not all of them have been put out.

Three of the five fires burning in the Priest Lake Ranger District are small and range from just a few trees to a couple of acres, according to fire information officer Jill Cobb. The largest is the Granite fire at 15 acres. The Blacktail fire on Blacktail Mountain north of Nordman was estimated at six acres Saturday evening.

The same lightning storm started the Bakers Camp fire near Bonners Ferry. Its size was estimated at 50 acres Saturday.

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