At 6 a.m. this morning, a Type 2 Incident Management Team took over command of the Callahan Fire, a 1,203-acre wildfire burning approximately nine miles southwest of Troy in the Three Rivers Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest.
According to a U.S. Forest Service press release, the fire is burning through an old burn scar from a 1992 fire, which allowed crews to initially use retardant to help suppress the flames, but increasingly poor air quality from fires in Oregon, Washington and California has since limited visibility and restricted aircraft usage. The fire has expanded outside of the old burn area into areas of continuous live and dead fuel that hasn’t burned in approximately 70 years.
Firefighters on the ground are experiencing ground fire and witnessing flames up to eight to 10 feet high. Suppression efforts include creating dozer lines and utilizing existing natural barriers as well as Forest Service roads in the area to slow the progression on the eastern side of the burn.
The fire started on Sept. 8 at the base of Smith Mountain and is burning uphill and to the north. A local Type 3 Incident Management Team was initially in charge of the fire with approximately 200 personnel assigned to the incident. Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, but incident commander Justin Erickson assumes that it was the result of a campfire.
A small spot fire also started on Sept. 15 and grew to 3 acres before crews were able to assess the situation. A slight improvement in air quality allowed assistance from a Type 1 helicopter to slow the progression of the spot.
Officials have closed South Fork Callahan Creek Road, Goat Creek Road, Smith Mountain Road and Glad Creek Road as well as the South Fork Callahan Trail, Caribou Creek Trail and Smith Mountain and Smith Lake trail.