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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Wildfires burning all over North Idaho, Eastern Washington; red flag warning predicts dangerous conditions for new, existing fires

Idaho and Washington fire crews were working to control multiple wildfires threatening homes across the Inland Northwest Wednesday, as wind and heat created dangerous potential for quick wildfire growth.

In Idaho, a fire started burning south of Leeland near the town of Lenore. Known as the Pine Creek fire, it grew to more than 200 acres as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to a news release from the Idaho Department of Lands.

The blaze threatened 20 to 30 homes in the area, according to the release. Nez Perce County Sheriff deputies notified owners who needed to evacuate.

Crews dropped fire retardant on the flames and used helicopters and three IDL engines to work the fire, the release said.

Also in Idaho, a drone operator at the Ridgewood fire near Kamiah prevented aircraft from dropping water on the 10-acre fire, potentially putting homes in danger.

Homes are located on a ridge above the fire, and Idaho Department of Lands fire crews were actively trying to prevent the fire from going up the ridge. No evacuations had been ordered as of mid-day Wednesday.

The Butte Creeke Fire in Clearwater County and the Shovel Creek Fire near the Nez Perce and Lewis Country border were both around 90 acres Wednesday .

The Butte Creek Fire was not threatening any structures, but the Shovel Creek Fire was threatening structures and had high potential for spread, according to the IDL.

The 20-acre Mission Flats fire closed down a section of eastbound I-90 early Wednesday.

“We do expect conditions could get worse,” said Megan Jahns, a public information officer at the Idaho Department of Transportation .

As of midday Wednesday, no structures, including the nearby Cataldo Mission, were threatened, and the highway had completely re-opened after the fire moved away from the road.

Multiple other smaller fires are raging across Idaho and are stretching state firefighter resources thin. IDL believes that early Wednesday morning thunderstorms ignited many of the fires.

In Washington, the Wilma fire in Whitman Country grew to 70 acres and the Asotin Complex fire near Clarkston County grew to 300 acres after both ignited early Wednesday morning.

The fires are threatening cropland and some homes, but as of midday Wednesday, no evacuations had been ordered. Causes of the fires have yet to be released.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Spokane issued a red flag warning until 8 p.m. Wednesday for most of Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle as dry thunderstorms and breezy winds rolled into the area.

The Bureau of Land Management Spokane District announced Wednesday that they will increase fire restrictions on public lands administered by the BLM and the Bureau of Reclamation for counties across eastern Washington.

The order has been modified to prohibit the building or maintaining of almost any kind of fire due to the extreme hot and dry conditions. Restrictions will also include target shooting, use of outdoor vehicles and smoking.

In addition, Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday declared a state of emergency that bans most agricultural and outdoor burning until the end of September.

Here are updates on the fires that were burning in the area prior to Wednesday.

Andrus and Batterman FireThe Andrus fire near Cheney was 30% contained as of Wednesday evening, and fire crews are monitoring weather conditions for any new activity.

Fire officials reported more accurate readings of the fire’s size and said it was 232 acres as of Wednesday night.

No structures have been lost and no one has been hurt in the Andrus fire as of midday Wednesday.

Elsewhere, the Batterman fire near Wenatchee has almost doubled in size to 14,375 acres. Fire crews did make progress since Tuesday, with the fire now 20% contained.

Eighty structures are threatened in the Batterman fire.

S-R reporter Sydney Brown contributed to this report.