Fires burn in west end
Bull Gin Complex nears 1,000 acres
September 8, 2022
by Annie Wooden
Several wildfires are burning on the west end of Sanders County. The lightning-caused fires were the result of recent thunderstorm activity.
The Kootenai Ranger District is referring to a group of fires as the Bull Gin Complex, which as of Tuesday encompassed 834 acres and was 0% contained.. Included in that complex is the Government Fire, which is visible from Noxon and Highway 200. The fire is estimated at more than 202 acres and over the weekend, a helicopter dumped buckets of water on the blaze. On Monday, bucket operations focused on keeping the fire out of Miller Gulch while additional crews worked to install water systems of sprinklers, pumps around private structures on Government Road and Timber Ridge Road, according to the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team assigned to the fire. Some closures are in place in the area, and crews were going to focus on preventing the fire from spreading to the west by constructing a shaded fuel break along the Government Creek forest road.
The Government Fire was expected to continue to grow this week with continued above-normal temperatures, as well as the steep terrain and continuous fuels in the area. An InciWeb press release noted that rugged terrain was impacting the availability of crews to go direct on the fire.
Also included in the Bull Gin Complex is the Billiard Fire, which started as two separate fires. On Monday, officials reported about 100 acres of unburned fuel between the 160-acre Billiard fire and the 280-acre North Star fire, prompting them to combine the incidents. Combined on Tuesday, the fire had burned more than 475 acres. The Billiard Fire is located off the north side of Highway 200, approximately two miles northeast of Heron.
In addition, the Isabella Lake Fire was listed Tuesday at 159 acres in rough, inaccessible terrain. This fire is located in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness off the East Fork of Bull River.
The Bull Gin Complex as of Tuesday had three crews, 10 engines, four water tenders and 20 pieces of heavy equipment assigned to the complex.
Since September 1, nine incidents have been reported by the Kootenai Interagency Dispatch Center. In the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District, smoke was reported in the area of Revett Lake north of Thompson Pass. Along with the fires burning within Sanders County, smoke from wildfires in Idaho, California, Washington and Oregon was affecting air quality throughout the local valley over the weekend.
Across the border in Idaho, two fires were caused by lightning near Murray, Idaho. The Bear Gulch Fire was believed to have started from an earlier thunderstorm, InciWeb reported, and was listed at 50 acres. The Columbus Fire, northeast of Murray, was listed at 75 acres. Some trail closures were reported in the area due to the fires.
More information on wildfires can be found on the incident website, http://www.inciweb.nwcg.gov.