Unstaffed Moose Peak fire keeping county commissioner up at night

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The Moose Peak fire — part of the Highway 200 Complex of fires just south of Lincoln County — “is the one keeping me up at night,” Commissioner Mark Peck said at a Sunday morning meeting of local and county officials.

The Moose Peak fire was one of about 20 lightning-started fires that appeared late Aug. 28, according to the Inciweb incident information website. Seven of the fires had “grown in size and severity” by Saturday, Sept. 2 — in addition to Moose Peak, the Miller Creek, Deep Creek, Reader, Reader 2, Cub Creek and Sheep Gap fires.

The Sheep Gap, Reader, Deep Creek and Cub Creek fires have demanded the most resources, leaving Miller and Moose Peak fires left unstaffed — part of the source of Peck’s concern, given the Moose Creek fire’s recent behavior.

“(Saturday) it raised its ugly head,” Peck said. “It blew over the divide and is now in Lincoln County.”

About 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page announced that mandatory evacuations had been ordered for McGinnis Meadows and Bay Horse Road because of the Moose Peak fire, which 8:45 p.m. Sunday was listed at 678 acres in size according to the Kootenai Interagency Dispatch Center website. Earlier about 12 to 15 residences in the nearby area of East Fisher Creek had been evacuated.

Peck’s other concern dealt with the fire’s management. As part of the Highway 200 Complex of fires, it’s being managed by a team outside Lincoln County, he said.

“We don’t have what I would call good command and control of that fire,” he said. “We’re taking a close look at how to best manage it.”

At a public meeting held at the Libby High School gym at 4 p.m. Sunday, Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Chris Savage said the Forest Service was “going to have to work on structure assessments” and other aspects of managing the Moose Creek fire.

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