Area smoke helping those working Bernard Fire

The Bernard Fire, found after Labor Day’s wind storms Monday, is burning in steep terrain near Bernard Point, overlooking Echo Bay on the south shore of Lake Pend Oreille. Current size is estimated at 660 acres. It was determined to be human caused and remains under investigation.

The North Idaho Type 3 Incident Management Team will be taking command of the fire tomorrow at 6 a.m., with Rod Weeks as Incident Commander. With resources spread thin across the west, the team is coming in directly from the Hunter 2 Fire in Blanchard.

The east flank was showing active fire behavior yesterday in timber and heavy dead and down trees until it reached the 1996 burn scar, where firefighters observed lower fire intensity. On the south side of the fire, in the West Gold Creek drainage, there are previously harvested areas and prescribed burn units off the 2707 road. These areas of reduced fuel loading provide better opportunities for fireline construction and suppression activities.

Rock faces and other natural barriers have checked growth to the west.

The “fire triangle” is a simple model for understanding the necessary ingredients for most fires: heat, fuel, and oxygen. While thick smoke across the region certainly has numerous negative impacts, it is actually reducing the rate of fire spread by shading the fire. By blocking heat from the sun, and limiting oxygen for convective burning, heavy smoke disrupts the fire triangle and reduces fire behavior.

Humidity is also increasing across the area, with better humidity recovery at night. Terrain, smoke, visibility, and inability to get an infrared flight have created mapping and acreage estimating challenges for fire managers, but maps will continue to be published as available.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been put in place for the Bernard Fire. This includes drones, which can interfere with firefighting efforts when illegally operated within a TFR. Boaters are also asked to stay clear of firefighting aircraft that are using Echo Bay to fill buckets and scoop water.

An area closure was put in place on September 9, 2020 for firefighter and public safety in the vicinity of the Bernard Fire.