Wet, cooler weather tempers area wildfire activity

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  • Firefighters mop up on the Huckleberry fire in a photo provided Monday. (U.S. Forest Service/Kootenai national Forest)

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    A U.S. Forest Service crew wraps a warming hut in the vicinity of the Gold Hill fire in a photo provided Monday. (Courtesy U.S. Forest Service/Kootenai National Forest)

  • Firefighters mop up on the Huckleberry fire in a photo provided Monday. (U.S. Forest Service/Kootenai national Forest)

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    A U.S. Forest Service crew wraps a warming hut in the vicinity of the Gold Hill fire in a photo provided Monday. (Courtesy U.S. Forest Service/Kootenai National Forest)

Cooler weekend temperatures and Sunday’s rain had the desired effect on the Tenmile, Sterling Complex and Davis fires, lessening fire activity, increasing containment in most cases and causing some pre-evacuation orders to be lifted.

The Tenmile fire, which has been holding steady at 681 acres, was declared 100 percent contained in a Monday morning incident report, while the Sterling Complex fires — comprising the Huckleberry and Pinkham Tower fires — were said to be 1,405 acres in size and 65 percent contained.

Within the Sterling Complex, “the remaining containment left to complete is on the northeastern flank of the Huckleberry fire and the northwest flank of the Pinkham Tower fire,” states the incident report. “Firefighters are mopping up at least 100 feet into the fire’s perimeter, where safe to do so, and monitoring for heat that will most likely smolder today in areas that received rain.”

The downside of the rain was that road conditions in some areas might delay firefighters’ access, the incident report states.

Midday Monday, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reported it would lift the pre-evacuation orders for residents near Edna Creek, Lake Creek, Sutton Ridge and Swamp Creek roads at 6 p.m. Monday.

The Davis fire grew somewhat since Thursday in both size and containment — 6,597 acres and 16 percent, respectively — while “cooler, wetter conditions moderated fire activity” on Sunday and “the overnight rain and high humidity will likely greatly reduce fire behavior, at least in the short term,” according to a Monday morning incident report.

Nonetheless, “even with rain last night and this morning, fuels are still exceptionally dry and will contribute to fire spread until significant moisture begins to affect heavy fuels.”

Closer to Libby, the Gold Hill fire grew from 1,920 acres the morning of Aug. 23 to 3,178 acres Monday morning, though fire activity slowed as the weather got cooler and wet.

“With rain and higher relative humidity, the fire behavior has decreased and allowed firefighters the opportunity to conduct aerial ignitions to the north and northwest side of the fire,” states an incident report. “Firefighters will continue to utilize air resources as weather permits.”

Also on Monday, firefighters were to improve contingency lines to the south and southeast, create fuel breaks along Noisy Creek Road and Blue Creek Road, and continue structure protection along Pipe Creek Road, where pre-evacuation orders still stood for properties near mile markers 11 and 13.

Air quality was expected to improve throughout Lincoln County with the lessening of fire activity and smoke clearing out.

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