By JOHN BLODGETT
The Western News
The Gold Hill fire reached another milestone 6 p.m. Thursday when the Libby District of the Kootenai National Forest took over fire command from Mike Almas’ Northern Rockies Type 2 Incident Management Team.
The transfer of power follows ongoing minimal fire activity “with some creeping and smoldering in the heavy dead and down fuels,” states a Thursday incident report.
Other recent milestones include traffic flow returning to normal on a nearby stretch of Pipe Creek Road following days of occasional delays, and lifting of pre-evacuation notices in roughly the same area.
Still, some forest roads and trails remain closed — a list can be accessed at www.fs.usda.gov/kootenai — and 188 people are still reported to be assigned to the lightning-caused fire, which on Thursday was said to be 6,602 acres in size and 55 percent contained.
Also, temporary flight restrictions are still in effect around the entire fire area, a measure intended as much to keep people from flying camera-toting drones as to prevent other aircraft from interfering with helicopters and planes assigned to fire operations.
“Crews continued to remove equipment from the northwest area of the fire in conjunction with suppression repair,” states the report. “Suppression repair on the eastern side of the fire has been completed and crews will look to complete the remainder of the suppression repair on the southern and western sides of the fire in the coming days.”
The weather forecast called for clouds and likely showers Thursday “with a small chance of wetting rains and possible localized heavy downpours in the afternoon and early evening.”