BONNERS FERRY — The Fleming Creek fire, nine miles north of Bonners Ferry, was reported around noon on Aug. 24. The fire began on a hill above the north side of Fleming Creek.
“Several homes and a radio tower are threatened,” said Boundary County Emergency Management Officer Mike Meier by that afternoon. “Evacuations are underway and are being coordinated by the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office.”
Departments on scene included Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), which was in command, U.S. Forest Service, Boundary Ambulance, North Bench Fire, South Boundary Fire, Paradise Valley Fire, Hall Mountain Fire, Curley Creek Fire, Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Patrol, and Bonners Ferry Police Department. Together the teams worked to fight the fire, protect structures, and evacuate residents from the area.
IDL responded quickly, mobilizing aircrafts to the fire, including two large planes known as “heavies.” With multiple planes in the area, they attracted a lot of attention from people in the community.
“The tanker jets that were used to fight the Fleming Creek Road fire recently were quite a sight coming across the tree line to drop their fire retardant cargo,” said photographer Elaine Wheatley.
South Boundary Fire Chief Tony Rohrwasser was protecting structures with his department. One of the South Boundary firefighters even mowed a whole yard of tall grass with a chainsaw, due to lack of a weed trimmer.
The fire quickly reached 100 acres, burning in timber and logging slash on industrial timberland and other private lands, and fueled by the wind.
Meier reported that a type 3 Incident Management Team had been ordered by the end of the first day, and some houses on Holmes Road, Lupine Road, and Ginger Lane were evacuated. Law enforcement requested that residents on Turner Hill Road and Rocking Tree Road be prepared to evacuate. Holmes Road off of Highway 95 was closed to anyone other than local residents.
A Red Cross shelter was set up at Mountain Springs Church for evacuees and firefighters.
By day two, IDL reported “Yesterday’s activity consisted of air tankers and helicopters dropping water to cool hotspots. Dozers created lines around a portion of the fire’s perimeter. Today, hand crews and dozers will build additional fireline and strengthen existing fireline. Helicopters and air tankers are making water drops as needed.”
At that time the fire was at 91 acres with zero percent containment.
On day two, Aug. 26, IDL reported that the fire had minimal growth over the previous 24 hours and that fire activity was minimal, consisting mostly of smoldering fuels within the fire interior, and that firefighters were able to establish a fireline completely around the fire.
With the help of much-needed rain, the fire reached 50 percent containment on Aug. 27, and by Aug. 28 it was reported to be fully contained.
The Idaho interagency Type 3 Incident Management Team that had been managing the fire will transition to the local district on Aug. 29. North Bench Fire and South Boundary Fire have been on scene since the beginning.
“IDL was really quick in. That was really fantastic,” remarked Rohrwasser. “Them getting in route really quick was huge.”
Although the early prediction was for structure loss, through teamwork and decidedly quick action, all houses at this time have protected, and evacuations have been lifted.