by KATHERINE WUTZ
Though neither the Halstead nor the Mustang Complex fire is officially contained, the U.S. Forest Service said this week that both have been significantly moderated and rehabilitation is beginning.
A press release issued Thursday morning stated that the 338,319-acre Mustang Complex Fire is only 30 percent contained and 396 firefighters remain on scene. However, the fire information center reported that fire managers flew over the entire fire Wednesday and viewed no columns of smoke.
The crews reported some torching of trees and burning within the perimeter of the fire, with most activity occurring between the Mustang Complex fire and the 32,000-acre Porcupine Complex Fire slightly to the northwest.
Crews reported Wednesday that the activity was minimal, and that the fires do not seem to have combined. Other crews are completing hand lines and attempting to guide the fire along the ridge tip to the northeast to prevent it from burning down into the Salazar Creek drainage, possibly with the aid of helicopters.
The press release states that crews are fixing damage done from dozer lines, a process that will likely take until the end of the week, maybe into the weekend to complete. Mop-up, patrolling and rehab work continue on the southern and eastern perimeters of the fire.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest announced Wednesday that the Halstead Fire had held steady for several days with minimal activity. Though the 179,305-acre fire is listed as only 62 percent contained, the press release states that the vast majority of uncontained areas are next to previous fire areas or natural rock barriers, which will act as fire breaks and prevent spread.
However, the release also states that the interior of the fire perimeter contains a large amount of unburned vegetation that will likely continue burning until a significant rain- or snowfall occurs.
Despite the containment lines’ holding, areas of the forest are still closed to all recreation. Bear Valley Creek is closed on the north side of the Fir Creek Campground bridge, which means that access to the Bear Valley Creek Hot Springs is closed as well. Access to Blue Bunch Mountain via this trail is still open. Loon Creek Road remains closed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from the Hecla Mine to the Loon Creek Guard Station to allow for safe firefighting operations.
Nip and Tuck Road is open for nonmotorized traffic only, and all spur roads leading to the north from this road are still closed.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest reports that officials will review the closure area daily and determine when areas are safe for public use based on nearby fire activity, road hazards, firefighter safety and other considerations.
For more information, check www.inciweb.org/state/13.
Kate Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org
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