rez fire

Smoke billows from the Williams Flats Fire near Keller, as seen from the ferry Sanpoil on the Columbia River.

KELLER – Two wildfires on the Colville Indian Reservation have charred more than 13,500 acres of land near Keller.

The Williams Flats Fire was reported Aug. 2 and, as of Monday, Aug. 5, had burned across 13,497 acres of timbered land in the Hellgate Game Reserve southwest of town, said Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8. Doug Johnson is the incident commander.

It was 20 percent contained. Brush and old logging slash also are involved.

Meanwhile, the Lundstrom Butte Fire had burned across 11 acres of land and was 45 percent contained.

The Williams Flats Fire is burning on land protected by the tribe and the state Department of Natural Resources.

On Monday, firefighters planned to strengthen existing containment lines and begin mop-up of hot spots on the west flank of the fire. Line construction is ongoing on the southeast flank toward Whitestone Ridge.

Bulldozers are constructing direct fire line and crews are burning out fuels as construction progresses toward the fire’s northeast corner. Retardant and water will be used as needed to reduce the risks of loss to timber, the Hellgate Game Reserve and archeological sites, fire officials said.

The structure protection group remained diligent watching for flare-ups at the Goat/Hellgate Ranch.

The group is also providing point protection at the Johnny George lookout tower.

An initial attack group has been identified and is prepared to respond to new fire starts, said officials.

Development of a spike camp closer to the fire is in the planning stage. The camp will reduce the amount of drive time for firefighting resources to arrive to work the fire.

A fire camp was set up Friday at the Keller Community Center.

The Lundstrom Butte Fire is in the same area. As of Monday, firefighters were securing containment lines and mopping up hot spots.

For both fires, 542 firefighters and support personnel were on the scene. Resources included five type 1 hand crews, three type 2 IA hand crews, six type 2 hand crews, five heavy helicopters, two medium helicopters, 18 engines, eight bulldozers and 19 water tenders. More resources were expected.

Firefighters were concerned about hot temperatures and critically low relative humidity. Little relief in temperature was expected.

Toward the end of the week, thunderstorms are possible.

One is under a Level 2 evacuation alert. Multiple roads are closed to public, including Kuehne, Friedlander, Refrigerator Canyon and Canteen Creek roads.

Helicopters are dipping and fire boss planes are scooping from nearby Lake Roosevelt for suppression efforts and need space to work, so the public is asked to avoid aircraft activities on the water.

The area is being patrolled by tribal law enforcement.

A temporary flight restriction of 10 miles surrounds the Williams Flats and Lundstrom fires so the large aircraft can maneuver when dropping retardant.

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