Crews on Bearskin fire prep for fire growth, cut down fuel sources

Crews hope weather will help to contain fire.

VALLEY COUNTY - In the next couple of days, crews working on the Bearskin Fire north of Lowman will continue to set defensive burns and cut down dead tress to remove fuel. They're also hoping to take full advantage of an upcoming drop in temperatures.

"The fire on the east side is pretty well ran up against some old fire scars," said John Giller, operation section chief.

One of those fire scars is from the Pioneer Fire in 2016. On the west side of the Bearskin Fire, estimated at nearly 30,000 acres Tuesday afternoon, it's a different story.

"It's active certainly on the west and the south side and it's moving little by little each day," Giller said.

Crews are also creating their own barriers with chainsaws and heavy machinery like wood chippers.

"We're continuing to prep those and as the fire comes down there, we're burning out to make sure that the fire doesn't cross that road," Giller said.

They're using the road system as yet another barrier for the fire.

"As the fire comes down they start lighting it and bringing fire gently down to the road system," said Giller.

Weather will also be playing a major role in the next couple of days.

"When it does change and we start to get some rain and such then we've got an opportunity to just finish it off essentially," said Giller.

At this point, Geller says it's all about doing what they can with what they have. A busy fire season across the West has left crews on a tight rotation. 

"If this fire was the only fire going this summer there would probably be closer to maybe 600 to 700 people on this fire," Giller said.

Instead, there's only about a fifth of that working on the Bearskin Fire, and most of them are local resources like the Centennial Job Corps.

"I don't think we are past our limit of being able to manage everything but we're just about to the limit of we don't have any more resources to go if a bunch more fires were to start," Giller said.

Another concern with this fire in particular is the rugged terrain, which makes it difficult to reach and also very dangerous. 

"There's all the different hazards you can commonly think about like rolling rocks, and trees coming down," said Giller.

Giller says fortunately, there aren't any structures threatened because the fire is located in a remote area. If that changes, he says they will be able to pull in more resources from another fire.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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