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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Fighting fire with fire: Prescribed burns to be used to halt spread of Craig Mountain blazes

By Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

Officials managing efforts to suppress the Craig Mountain Complex of fires burning south of Lewiston plan to methodically use prescribed burns to subdue two blazes.

The Powerline Fire burning between Deer Creek and Wapshilla Creek in the lower Salmon River gorge has grown to nearly 17,000 acres; and the Corral Creek Fire burning in the Corral Creek drainage on the northern end of Hells Canyon has burned about 1,800 acres.

Information officer Jeanette Dreadfulwater said firefighters will first use a prescribed burn to consume grass and brush between the eastern flank of the Powerline Fire and a contingency line to the east.

The fire is moving south and west toward the confluence of the Snake and Salmon rivers and could reach that point today. Dreadfulwater said firefighters also plan to use prescribed burns and fire lines to surround the Corral Creek Fire so that its scar stops the Powerline Fire if that blaze moves north once it hits the confluence. Firefighters will use lines constructed during the 2014 Big Cougar Fire to keep the blaze from moving into the timbered uplands.

However, Dreadfulwater said areas above about 4,700 feet remain green and probably won’t burn. Also, there is likely to be some drainages that escape the flames.

“Even though the perimeter is going to look large, not everything is going to burn,” she said. “We have green drainages and green ridges.”

The rivers and beaches will remain open to recreation during the operation, which is expected to last several days.

There are a handful of structures in the area, and Dreadfulwater said firefighters plan to take precautions to protect them. She said crews were able to guide the fire around the Wapshilla Ranch managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The strategy was chosen, she said, because fire managers feel the steep nature of the terrain doesn’t offer any opportunities for fire lines that are likely to hold and keep firefighters safe.

“Due to firefighter safety, we just can’t put them on those steep ridges where the fire could make a run and they would be in a place we don’t want them to be,” she said.

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