Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rainy Weather Ends Danger to Ross Creek Cedar Grove in Montana

September 3, 2015, courtesy of US Forest Service:

The Northern Rockies Wildland Fire Management Team has assumed command of all fires in the Napoleon and Clark Fork Complexes and will manage them as the Clark Fork Complex under the command of Diane Hutton.

  • The Clark Fork Complex is a collection of the following fires:
  • Scotchman Peak (IPNF): 2057 acres Whitetail (IPNF): 1870 acres
  • Sawtooth (KNF): 2465 acres Marten Creek (IPNF): 6 acres
  • Napoleon (KNF): 8957 acres Government (KNF): 399 acres

Yesterday’s Activities [9/2/15]: There was an uptick in fire activity on Wednesday as sunshine and moderate winds caused hot areas to show themselves. Fortunately the activity was concentrated well within the fire perimeter or on flanks with little chance of growth. Infra-red photography showed growth across the Complex was limited to 20 acres on the west edge of the Sawtooth Fire.

On the Whitetail Fire crews started water-barring constructed fire-lines to prevent erosion from forecasted rainfall. Supervisors worked with Resource Advisor Lydia Allen to devise a rehabilitation plan for the area. Equipment continued construction of a contingency line along the private boundary south of the Napoleon Fire and north of Highway 200.

Crews pushed their mop-up activities deeper into the area west of the Highway 56 corridor. The focus of work on Wednesday was on the contingency line along the boundary of Eagle View Estates, northeast of the Sawtooth Fire. The work included structure protection and the strategic placement of pumps and hose-lays.

The final night shift was completed on Thursday morning as fire conditions along Highway 56 no longer warrant making engines work through the night.

Today's Planned Actions [9/3/15]: Additional sunshine on Thursday will likely "liven up" some of the fires, but the activity should be mostly interior single-tree torching on the Sawtooth and Napoleon Fires.

Firefighting activities will be similar to Wednesday with additional mopping-up of hot spots and the expected completion of the contingency line south of the Napoleon Fire. Structure protection will continue in the Eagle View Estates subdivision.

The Temporary Flight Restriction around Whitetail Peak that had prevented conflicts between Complex aerial operations and other aircraft will be lifted today. The Team will continue to demobilize crews and equipment to "right size" down to an organization that is appropriate for the present fire activity and forecasted future weather.

Forecasted Weather: Showers and thunderstorms will be passing through the area on Thursday. There is only a 20% chance of a wetting rain (greater than one-tenth of an inch) from these storms. Winds will be light on Thursday except for erratic gusts associated with thunderstorms. Meteorologist Scott Carpenter is feeling increasing confident that a wide-spread low pressure area will bring between ¼ and ½ inch of rain on Friday night and Saturday.

Evacuations: The following area in Montana is under a Pre-evacuation Notice: all residences south of mile mark 20.5 along the Highway 56 Corridor to the Highway 200 intersection, including Angel Island, Bull Lake Estates, Eagle View Estates, East Fork Bull River Road and the South Fork of Bull River, also the residences north of Highway 200 from mile marker 6 to the Highway 56 intersection (approximately 4 miles); and the residents of Old Bull River Road. A Level 1 Evacuation Order is in effect for an area in Bonner County, Idaho. This area is bounded by the State Line on the east, River Road (south of the Clark Fork River) on the north, the main fork of Johnson Creek on the west and the Shoshone/Bonner County Line to the south. Level 1 is a pre-evacuation notice that informs residents that they should have plans in case the fire moves in their direction.

Closures: An area closure order exists on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest around the Scotchman Peak Fire. A closure order on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest that closes the 332 Road, the 1066 Road and the 1021 Road at the intersection with the 332 Road, in the local area remains in effect.

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests and the Kootenai National Forest have instituted area and trail closures around many of the fires in the Clark Fork Complex; please consult the websites for the respective Forests at the Idaho Panhandle or the Kootenai for the latest updates. Closures on the Idaho Panhandle will likely last through the Labor Day Weekend to ensure public safety.

For the latest fire information and photos, visit

Stay current with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest on Facebook: and the Kootenai National Forest at

This ends fire reports.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

Official Update on Fires Near Ross Creek Cedars

Just received from official Clark Fork Fire Information <>

"Fire is still one half mile to the southwest of the Ross Cedar Grove. The fire managers feel pretty good that it would survive if the fire does push that way as it is protected with natural barriers and high humidity where it is located.

"They are also planning to put sprinklers in around the trail.

"Don't forget those trees have survived 1000 years of fire including the 1910 and 1889 fires!"

Comprehensive Map of the region.

The harrowing tales those rugged Montana homesteaders told about surviving the 1910 holocaust in those mountain valleys are in Volume 1 of Behind These Mountains, a trilogy of northwestern Montana. To read their accounts free here, Chapter 18, 1910 Fire.

Due to Forest Fires Montana Hwy. 2 Is Closed Between Essex and Libby, MT

A portion of Montana Hwy. 2 is closed between Essex and  Libby, MT in the Kootenai River Valley. Unconfirmed reports claimed Ross Creek Cedars, the ancient grove near Bull Lake is afire aren't true, fire management officials say.

The latest official information, posted 2 hours ago, is at InciWEB.

As soon as it's received, I'll post the current status I requested from Clark Fork Complex command officials.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wildfires in the West Expected to Burn Until September 28, 2015

Fires are expected to burn in The Clark Fork Complex until September 28th, according to the latest estimate posted approximately half an hour ago on  inciWeb, Incident Information System.

Comprehensive Map of the region.

Ross Creek Cedars near Bull Lake, in neighboring Lincoln County, may be spared according to latest information that said the Scotchman Peak fire is one mile from the ancient grove.

Friendsof Scotchman Peaks Wilderness 

Fire Update:

"Infrared technology was able to cut through the smoke and give fire managers a picture of what the fires have been doing under their blanket of smoke over the past few days. The Scotchman's Peaks Fire is now measured at only 1920 acres, a decrease from previous measurements. It continues to burn islands on the interior of the fire and up on the steep, rocky slopes beneath Scotchman #2. Activity on the southern edge of the fire, near Clark Fork, has nearly ceased....
"The Napoleon Fire has continued to grow to the south in un-burned areas below Pillick Ridge, and is now measured at 7,896 acres. Crews have laid hoses along the Pillick Ridge trail, which will be used to knock heat down between Highway 56 and Gin Gulch, where the fire has crossed the ridge. We hope that the firefighters can continue to ensure the safety of homes along the Bull River. 
"The Sawtooth Fire is now measured at 2010 acres. Although two large spots grew together recently, it has (thankfully) not made any progress towards the Ross Creek Cedars.

"In case you missed the announcement yesterday, FSPW received a request to help feed firefighters at the Lakeside Restaurant in Trout Creek, MT. If you would like to help out, please call the Lakeside Restaurant at (406) 827-4458."
The fires in Kootenai (KNF) and Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IDP) include individual fires are the Scotchman Peak (IDP), Whitetail (IDP), Marten Creek (IDP), Sawtooth (KNF), Napoleon (KNF) and Government (KNF). The Northern Rockies Wildland Fire Management Team, under the command of Diane Hutton, are managing all fires in the complex. All of the fires were started by a lightning event that ran across the geographic area. Evacuations along Highway 56 run from milepost 2.7 to milepost 14. Additional resources remain difficult to obtain due to the unprecedented number of fires in the north western states. Firefighter and community safety are the top priorities for all fire suppression actions.

Additional information is in Becky Kramer's August 26th assessment of the Ross Creek Cedar grove.

For an overall assessment of wildfires, read this Bloomberg Business article which gives you their realistic viewpoint. It includes the following:

"The Forest Service, the countrys largest wildland firefighting agency, has spent $800 million trying to control the flames this year, and its only August. As such, 2015 is on track to become the 15th year in a row the agency has laid out roughly $1 billion on firefighting alone. Expenses in some areas are equal to or greater than the value of the threatened property$200,000 to $400,000 per home, according to Bozeman (Mont.)-based Headwaters Economics. Yet the Forest Service doesnt have much choice: It cant just let communities burn. So the service and its partner agencies keep putting out the flames, even though years of study have shown that doing so only leads to even hotter, more devastating fires later."
One quote in the article states,
“If you always do what youve always done, youll always get what youve always got, says Tom Harbour, who, as the chief of the Forest Services fire department, sets the agenda for dozens of other federal, state, county, and municipal agencies and is effectively Americas wildland fire chief. One hundred million people in the West can no longer expect to just pick up the phone, dial 911, and have a Hotshot come and save them.”
The harrowing tales those rugged Montana homesteaders told about surviving the 1910 holocaust in those mountain valleys are in Volume 1 of Behind These Mountains, a trilogy of northwestern Montana. To read their accounts free here, Chapter 18, 1910 Fire.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Freeman HS Alumni Received Special Recognition at Navy Week in Kansas City, MO

Roy Vanek, Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) had a prominent role in the success of Navy Week, held in Kansas City, MO.

On August 17th, America's Navy wrote, "[Sailors from] The world's largest Navy arrived to the "City of Fountains," Aug. 17, 2015 to begin Kansas City Navy Week, a week-long series of community and
outreach events."

Vanek received special recognition from Vice Admiral William Hilarides, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, and Mayor Sly James for his performances.

Video #1 and Video #2  feature Roy and his EOD crew. 
Roy wrote, "The first video is of me giving an interview with the reporter in a bombsuit.  The second video is a photos of me and my team diving in the aquarium and interacting with the kids.  I'm the diver in the full wetsuit with the long sleeves and pants." Spectators watched the  exciting events taking place inside the aquarium.

Navy EOD is this is a dangerous job, requiring both intelligence and courage. Many Kansas City news media published stories depicting one of Roy's more enjoyable assignments. Two stories are in America's Navy, "EOD Sailors Make a Splash at the Kansas City Sea Life Aquarium", and here .

After parting from his classmates and football team members when he graduated from Freeman High School at Freeman, Wash., Roy joined the Navy EOD 19 years ago, when he was 17.

Newsroom America  published the following story, written by By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Gold, Navy Office of Community Outreach.

EOD assignments have taken Vanek all over the world. Some of his assignments have been guarding the President of the United States, and guarding visiting foreign dignitaries. Additionally, he has participated in many critical EOD missions, and also trained EOD units in other countries.
KSHB (NBC) August 18, 2015,
Action News Midday.

WDAF (FOX) August 21, 2015 FOX 4 News at 6AM

Freeman High School can be proud of the part their school system played in Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Roy Vanek's success.

Independence School District, August 18, 2015, (
Article and Photos), Highly-Skilled Navy Explosives Technicians Meet ISD JROTC, PLTW Students.

The Examiner, August 20, 2015, By: Mike Genet
Navy team visits schools to promote
STEM studies.
Recently returned from Guam, where he met his wife, Chubasca "Bas", they are currently stationed in San Diego, CA. Vanek has numerous relatives and friends in the eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana region, all of whom, like the nation, appreciate his service.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Clark Fork Complex - August 23, 2015

So far, the agencies managing the Clark Fork Complex fire area are allowing small fires to burn. Clark Fork Complex (August 23, 2015) and August 22, 2015.

Our daughter and husband, Annette and Wayne Hill, who live in Noxon, Montana, have been driving to about the 8 mile marker on Hwy 56, part of the Clark Fork Complex, every day. They turn back there, at the Bull River Ranch where I grew up.

Yesterday [August 22] she said they see numerous fires on the mountain slopes bordering each side of Hwy. 56, which appear to be an acre in size.

Hills own and operate Wayne Hill Outfitting in Noxon. Both are life-long residents and grew up exploring the mountains, enjoying hiking, berry picking, fishing, fun family excursions and hunting. After logging became unprofitable, they established their hunting guide service. Wayne Hill Outfitting soon became the premier outfitting service in that area.

Having lived near Noxon for sixty years, we realize the gravity of the situation. In reality, there simply isn't manpower or resources, and most of the roads listed no longer provide sufficient access to the affected areas.

It was a similar situation in 1910, long before the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads into those mountains. However timbermen and their crews, and hundreds of imported men walked into the mountains and fought them as best they could.

Finally, Mother Nature blew the scattered small fires into a firestorm that nothing halted .... until finally the rains came in early September

God willing, this year weather conditions will keep the small fires from spreading, and fall rains will come to the rescue soon.

The harrowing tales those rugged Montana homesteaders told about surviving the 1910 holocaust in those mountain valleys are in Volume 1 of Behind These Mountains, a trilogy of northwestern Montana. To read their accounts free here, Chapter 18, 1910 Fire.

Chapter 14, Laying Out The Forest Service System, relates the beginning of forest management in the region. The CCC stories and pictures are in Behind These Mountains, Vol. 2

Friday, August 21, 2015

Consequences of Misguided US Officials:Ross Creek Cedar Gove Endangered!

Montana lacks resources to fight all the fires threatening thousands of acres in the Bull River Valley in Sanders County so agencies and fire crews are forced to focus on evacuating Bull River Valley residents, and allowing nature to take its course. Ross Creek Cedars near Bull Lake, in neighboring Lincoln County may be spared. Update 8/21/15.
My heart ached when I read about the current forest fire situation in the Bull River Valley in Sanders County, where I lived like a homesteader during my teenage years. The harrowing tales of ­­homesteaders who survived the 1910 holocaust in those mountain valleys  return to haunt me. I tape recorded them and they are published in Volume 1 of Behind These Mountains, a trilogy of northwestern Montana. To read their accounts free here in Chapters 14, Laying Out The Forest Service System, and Chapter 18, 1910 Fire.

The Bull River Ranger station, the first built on the Cabinet National Forest in 1908, survived in 1910. Cabinet Wilderness Historical Society restored it during 1999. Will it be turned to ashes this time? Its fascinating story is also in Behind These Mountains, Vol. 1.
An important contributing factor to these fire conditions was launched during the early 1970s by a newcomers who pursued selfish agendas.  (*see previous story)

Thousands of acres of Montana and Idaho's once productive forests are doomed.