Wind shift reduces risk to homes and farms in Harvard. Via the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Fire crews Monday continued to battle the approximately 900-acre Strychnine Fire burning roughly 5 miles northeast of Harvard that led to the evacuation of nearby camping areas and evacuation warnings for those living in the surrounding wilderness.
The fear heading into Monday was that weather conditions would help lead to the worsening of the fire, however, Idaho Department of Lands spokeswoman Jennifer Russell said winds were “cooperating” by shifting east and turning the fire away from some residential and farm areas located near Harvard. Still, Russell said, the Latah County Sheriff’s Office issued a Stage Two evacuation warning to residents along state Highway 6 requesting people be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice if the wind pattern shifted in their direction.
The wind shift was not all good news, as with it came a thick layer of smoke from the fires currently raging through Montana. Russell said planes providing air support were forced to move their fill-up station to the Washington side of the fire line instead of the Montana side that they had been using Saturday and Sunday. As a result, it has been taking air crews longer to refuel and return to the fire line to dump retardant on the flames.
Infrared mapping was supposed to be conducted Sunday night, however crews were unable to do so, leaving the exact amount of acreage affected by the fire still uncertain.
Russell said fire crews were able to establish fire lines using bulldozers Sunday, and while the fire spread to the lines Monday, it did not jump them.
Seventeen fire engines, three bulldozers and three water tenders were on the scene of the fire Sunday. The U.S. Forest Service Palouse Range District, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Bureau of Land Management and volunteer fire crews from Moscow, Potlatch, Troy and Deary have all assisted Idaho Department of Lands over the past several days. IDL Plans Section Chief Michelle Sarratt said air resources from Missoula, Grangeville and Coeur d’Alene have also lent their services.
“They have made really good progress on making sure the lines stayed through the night,” Russell said Monday afternoon.
The land currently affected by the wildfire is mostly industrial and national forest land, primarily owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the Potlatch Timber Co.
Russell said no structures have been lost in the fire.
State Highway 6 has remained open, but the Giant White Pine Campground and trailhead parking lot have been evacuated. Laird Park, Camp Grizzly and Bald Mountain Lookout have also been evacuated, according to the National Incident Information System.
Latah County Sheriff Richie Skiles said there are no plans to close any roads other than the road to Laird Park at this time.
A command post has been established near the Pines RV Park off of state Highway 6. An Idaho Panhandle Emergency Response crew has set up tents, restrooms and supplies for the 43 fire personnel that responded to the fire, which was first reported at approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.