Fire Preparedness At Most Urgent Level

By Tom Bacon

For the first time in 5 years, the national Fire Preparedness Level has been raised to 5 - the most urgent level on the index. It's the National Interagency Fire Center's equivalent of a Red Alert, meaning that wildfire agencies are throwing everything they have into the battle against huge, costly fires and that they're looking for more help.

The Boise fire coordinating group cited high fire activity, a major commitment of resources and the probability that severe conditions will continue, at least for the next several days. Top fire managers said that resources such as smokejumpers, hotshot crews, air tankers and helicopters are in short supply. The problem is aggravated in Idaho by a couple of new fires, one of which is threatening another tiny mountain community.

The Little Queens fire is burning toward the town of Atlanta, a remote hamlet in the mountains northeast of Boise. Residents there have been told to evacuate, but most have refused, electing instead to confront the blaze. Some Atlantans climbed aboard their own bulldozers to begin cutting fire lines.

And a new blaze has broken out in a roadless area east of Coeur d' Alene. The Marie Creek fire is about five miles east of Wolf Lodge, burning in timber and is not yet a threat to any structures.

Idaho and Oregon each had nine major wildfires burning as of Tuesday which had blackened about 400-thousand acres total. The only big fires in Washington State still uncontained were the Conrad Lake fire burning in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest southwest of Naches, and a new blaze near Leavenworth called the Eagle Fire, about 250 acres in size.
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