FIRE OFFICIALS OPTIMISTIC

August 21, 2001 12:00 am
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Fire bears down on the Imnaha River Inn Bed and Breakfast and the community of Imnaha Friday. The fire never reached Imnaha. Today the fire is burning in Horse Creek. (Submitted photo by JERRY KIESECKER).
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Fire bears down on the Imnaha River Inn Bed and Breakfast and the community of Imnaha Friday. The fire never reached Imnaha. Today the fire is burning in Horse Creek. (Submitted photo by JERRY KIESECKER).

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

IMNAHA Officials remain optimistic about the Horse Creek Fire that has burned in excess of 15,635 acres after it jumped part of the line completed Monday night from Cayuse Flats to Horse Creek.

The Hat Point Road remains closed, but Monday afternoon the Lower Imnaha Road was reopened. Officials asked that motorists use extreme caution on the one-mile stretch below Imnaha to the Hubbard Ranch feed lot where the fire camp for nine crews and as many as 443 people are working.

The five remaining municipal fire trucks and crews provided by the state were sent home today.

The fire did not reach Imnaha. It was burning this morning in timber in Horse Creek. With these heavier fuels, the spotting distance of the fire has increased to a quarter mile.

Wind continues to be a key factor. Friday the fire burned within one-quarter mile of some residences along the Imnaha River.

It was intimidating as all get out, said Jerry Kiesecker, who has a home at Fence Creek. You could hear it almost like a jet, especially during the night.

It was a long night Thursday for Kiesecker as flames appeared atop Grizzly Ridge after marching up and out of Horse Creek east toward the Imnaha River.

Two years ago, Kiesecker cleared the brush away from his home as a fire preventative.

Friday Kiesecker was busy keeping sprinklers going around his home, on his barn and on his neighbors roof.

Despite a wind blowing uphill and upstream away from his home, the fire kept creeping down the ridge. If that wind had changed direction, Kiesecker thought the fire could have jumped the river to his property.

Whenever that opposing wind let up and there was a calm, Kiesecker said he could feel the heat downhill from the fire nearly a half mile away.

That wind blowing southeast was a key factor, Kiesecker thought in keeping the fire from burning homes like his.

Instead, the wind pushed the fire upriver within one mile of Imnaha.

The threat to the small community was reduced with some slight precipitation and a small increase in fuel moisture Saturday night. Isolated showers were predicted through Thursday, Fire Information Officer Bill Beebe said. How isolated showers are, where they are and any wind accompanying the cold front and any thunderstorm downdrafts will be critical to the fires behavior, he said. We were really pleased with the last two days, Beebe said.

Imnaha looks to be out of danger. The hillside is blackened, but all the smoke Monday seemed to be coming out of Horse Creek. Monday, five large Sykorsky Skycrane helicopters arrived to work the fire line. The area from that line toward the fire was backburned Monday night.

The fire is 65 percent contained. If things continue to go this well, the firefighters could leave as early as Friday, but the 29-year veteran Beebe emphasized that with the dry fuels from this summers drought there still is a potential for extreme fire behavior.

A lot depends on the wind and the weather.