Courtesy InciWeb
The Carpenter Road Fire on the Spokane Reservation continues to expand despite recent rain and cooler temperatures.

Wildfires in Northwestern Indian Country Show Improvement

Jack McNeel

Fires throughout the inland northwest on Indian reservations have mostly slowed their progress of recent weeks. Not all are under control and fire season can last another six weeks but conditions overall have improved the past few days.

The Spotted Eagle Fire has recently moved northward and crossed onto the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana. This is part of the Family Peak Complex caused by lightning strikes the week of August 9. On August 28 fire moved onto the reservation in the vicinity of Heart Butte. The town and surrounding area have somewhere in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 residents and on August 28 an evacuation notice was issued. That fire was listed at 698 acres as of that date. An evacuation shelter has been set up for those needing shelter and all services are provided free.

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On Washington’s Spokane Reservation the Carpenter Road Fire continues to expand but overnight rain on August 31 and cooler temperatures have helped contain that fire, now estimated at slightly over 65,000 acres. All sides of the fire are now staffed with fire suppression personal.

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The Cougar Creek Fire on the Yakama Reservation is listed at 54,000 acres and active but fire fighters have been utilizing burn outs to stop the spread of fires. That, combined with cooler weather and likelihood of rain in the forecast, should help in slowing the fire’s progress. The northern and northeastern portions of the fire remain of greatest concern with little rain the past few days and little in the forecast. This can be an advantage in burn out operations depending on winds. All forest resource lands on the Yakama Reservation are closed to the public, including tribal members.

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Idaho’s Nez Perce Reservation remains mostly as a mop up operation. Different fire complexes join as fires burn together so it’s sometimes hard to compare acreages burned but that complex as of September 1 is listed at 82,956 acres. There are 32 engines of various types, 2 helicopters and 553 firefighters assigned to that complex. Weather temperatures are forecast for low this week with precipitation forecast over Labor Day weekend, all good signs for fire control.

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The huge North Star Fire on the Colville Reservation was listed at just over 205,000 acres on August 31 with one fourth of the perimeter contained. Nearly 900 personnel are assigned to that fire. Relative humidity levels in the range of 40-50 percent have helped in subduing the fire. This has allowed fire crews to become more aggressive in attacking the fire where before it was more of a defensive situation.

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Dozens of other fires continue to burn in these three states but most are not on Indian reservations and thus not included in this summary.

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