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Pinkham fire lines established

| August 10, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

A fire near Eureka continued to rage Tuesday morning with nearly 1,000 acres burned.

The Camp 32 fire, located nine miles southwest of Eureka, was contained but not controlled as of Tuesday morning, according to Kootenai National Forest spokesman Willie Sykes.

The blaze in the Pinkham Creek area broke out about 1 p.m. Sunday, Sykes said.

Neil Nelson of the U.S. Forest Service in Libby said some agency firefighters from the Libby District were fighting the Camp 32 fire Monday along with others from Cabinet View Rural Fire Department and Fisher River Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Kootenai National Forest officials had ordered additional firefighting crews from other regions in Montana and out of state as of Monday.

"We'll be picking them up sometime late Tuesday," Nelson said.

An evacuation order was placed on parts of the Pinkham Creek area, said Kootenai National Forest Rexford District fire information officer Jennifer Brady.

"The only thing that has burned was an outbuilding, a pole shed," she said.

Airplanes were used heavily on Sunday to drop retardant on the blaze, Brady added.

As Monday evening neared, wind appeared to be the biggest challenge facing firefighters.

"There's a red-flag warning for wind," Brady said. "We have 10- to 15-mph winds with possible gusts to 20 mph."

Firefighters are battling hard to maintain the fire's northeast edge where wind is whipping the flames, she said. Conditions warranted fire officials to ratchet up from a "type three team" approach — a local monitoring effort — to the most severe level of "type one team" by late Monday.

The more serious status resulted from threats to private property, according to Brady.

U.S. Forest Service official Wally Bennett of Columbia Falls was brought in to serve as incident commander. Other Forest Service personnel were setting up toilets, tents, food preparation facilities and other aspects of a base camp to fight the blaze.

Sykes said firefighters had staked out a broad area to limit the blaze as of Monday morning.

"They have a line around it, but no containment," Sykes said.

Additional crews from elsewhere in Montana and extra firefighters from out of state had been ordered Monday, he said.

"We'll be picking them up sometimes Tuesday," Nelson said.

Although Nelson said the fire's origin is believed to be human-caused, Rexford's Brady said the cause was still officially under investigation Monday afternoon.