Wildfire growth in the Idaho Panhandle has forced expanded closures in the St. Joe Ranger District.
As of Tuesday, the area closure encompasses the headwaters of the St. Joe River, from Avery upstream. The eastern boundary is the Montana state line and the southern boundary is the border between the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest. Roads that make up the area closure perimeter are not closed, but all roads and trails within the closure are. Moon Pass and the Route of the Hiawatha remain open, according to a Panhandle National Forest news release.
On the evening of July 31, fires within the Stateline Complex were impacted by hot, windy weather. Above-average temperatures, 25 mph winds, and near-record-low fuel moisture of approximately 3%, converged into dangerous conditions and rapid fire growth. The Tumbledown fire, the largest within the Complex, made a nearly 5-mile wind-driven run downriver that exceeded existing closure boundaries. When considering area closures, fire managers and administrators carefully evaluate the balance between public land access and firefighter and public safety.
An area closure will be issued shortly for the Trestle Creek Complex on the Sandpoint Ranger District to replace the previous road and trail closure. This Complex also saw rapid fire growth over the weekend that necessitated evacuations, according to the release. No structures have been lost, and residents have since been downgraded to pre-evacuation status.
Maps and detailed descriptions of all active closures are provided on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ website (fs.usda.gov/alerts/ipnf/alerts-notices). Statewide, interagency information on closures, fire perimeters and more is provided on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Fire Map (idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/maps/realtime/fire/).
The Stateline Complex closure order is in effect until Nov. 30 or until the order is rescinded. Unless specifically exempted, the public is urged to stay away from closed areas and respect fire restrictions. Violation of a closure order can put the safety of the public or firefighters at risk and is punishable by $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
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