Bear Creek fire grows to 11,000 acres, May be in ‘patrol’ mode by end of week

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Making plans

Ashley Sites, the operations section chief on the Bear Creek Fire, addresses fellow leaders of the firefighting team Monday evening during a planning meeting. According to a spokesperson at the site, the smoke enveloping Dillon is from the California fires and is actually helping suppression efforts on the Bear Creek fire by lowering temperatures. The fire is 45 miles southwest of Dillon in the Lemhi Pass area. Terina Goicoechea/FS photo

The Bear Creek fire near the border of Idaho by Lemhi Pass grew more than 2,000 acres over the past week, but officials think it may be contained enough to be in “patrol” mode soon.

The lightning-caused fire covered 11,236 acres as of Tuesday morning, and was considered 70 percent contained at that point according to InciWeb, the incident management website.

There are 405 total personnel and a number of engines and aircraft assigned to manage the fire.

Much of the work over the weekend focused on the northwest corner of the fire to the Continental Divide, to try and suppress and contain that area. On Tuesday crews were focusing on the northwest side of the fire.

Other crews patrolled the southern boundary, or held the line on the east end over the weekend. On Monday, suppression efforts were planned for the fireline on the eastern and southern sections.

Smokiness is expected to continue; much of the smoke in the county is wafting up from the fires burning in California.

Successful work containing the spread of the fire allowed officials to release the sky crane to make them available to assist with other fires.

The long-term weather forecast looks good for managing further fire spread, with cloudy weather and cooler tem peratures predicted. Rain showers are expected through Wednesday, with moderate temperatures. However, winds may pick up and there is a chance for lightning.

Public Health officials reviewed the Bear Creek fire camp precautions to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus among the workers. Public Health Director Sue Hansen told the health board Friday that they reviewed fire protocols for isolation, quarantine and testing of suspected COVID-19 cases. She noted the camps are not set up like traditional fire camps, but are separated into “pods” to keep firefighters separated to prevent viral transmission.

“I believe they have good procedures in place,” she said. “I think they are appreciative of our willingness to work with them, and we are appreciative of their willingness to work with us. They’ve done a lot to mitigate problems.”

Hansen noted the county has tested a couple of firefighters already, though she did not say if the individuals had tested positive for the virus.

Lemhi Pass Road will continue to be closed from Highway 324 to Lemhi Pass, the Beaverhead County Commissioners decided Monday. Sheriff Paul Craft suggested keeping the road closed until the fire was in a more manageable state, since there is still a lot of fire traffic moving through the area, especially on the north end.

A small fire sparked five miles west of Polaris Thursday. The Shale Creek Fire burned eight acres, and the cause of the fire is currently unknown. That fire is now 100 percent contained.

Bradley Creek fire: The Bradley Creek fire, near Norris in Madison County, was first reported Sunday. On Tuesday, the fire was declared 20 percent contained and was determined to be 1,870 acres in size.