The Morgan-Panther creek road opened to through traffic in the Rabbit Foot Fire closure area last Saturday. Motorists are not allowed to stop and all spur roads and trails off the main road are closed.
Drivers going over Morgan Creek Summit from Challis should keep moving until they are past the Silver Creek Road that goes into Meyers Cove, and should keep an eye out for firefighter traffic, which has the right of way.
Increased fire activity could close Morgan-Panther road again with no warning, so motorists should check with fire information officers at 208-879-1243 before heading up the road.
Fire managers reduced the closure area slightly on Sept. 1, opening areas west of Black Mountain Ridge. All trails and roads within the closure area are closed with the exception of Silver Creek Road and Morgan-Panther.
The fire grew by 98 acres in the last week, to 35,369 acres, but it continues to burn inside its perimeter, most actively in timbered areas with dense fuels. Since firefighters with direct attack and Mother Nature with moderating weather have kept the fire in check, some restoration work has begun on bulldozer lines in the areas of Williams Lake Road on the northern boundary of the closure area and Van Horn Creek on the southern. As days get shorter, nights get longer and temperatures moderate, fire managers are confident the fire won’t make big runs toward dozer lines, although there is always potential for growth around the fire’s perimeter until a season-ending rain or snow occurs.
Firefighters have established direct containment lines around 14 percent of the fire, and fire control lines remain in place. Full containment is not expected until Oct. 23.
Firefighters on Labor Day confined the fire within the Mink Creek drainage. East of Panther Creek the fire was slowly crawling downhill toward control lines.
Last weekend, firefighters successfully limited fire growth in many places using hand tools and water from pumps, fire engine hoses and helicopter bucket drops. Crews have checked the fire’s spread near Iron Mountain and in the upper reaches of Castle Creek, a tributary to Camas Creek, and in Mink Creek, which flows into Panther Creek.
Last Sunday, crews finished structure protection in the Williams Lake area, and on Monday, were continuing to make areas around structures in the Panther Creek drainage more fire resistant. Structure protection consists of a combination of clearing fuels, setting up pumps and sprinklers, and in some cases, wrapping structures with fire-resistant and heat-reflecting material. Crews wrapped some structures in the Hat Creek drainage on Aug. 30.
Firefighters established a spike camp near Iron Mountain last week, allowing them to engage the fire perimeter directly with reduced driving time to camp.
All Custer and Lemhi county homeowners potentially affected by the fire in the Morgan-Panther creek area and the Salmon River corridor between Challis and Salmon are on the lowest level of pre-evacuation alert, Level 1.
Some atmospheric instability on Monday was predicted to create upward air movement, analogous to opening the vent damper on a wood stove, and lead to increased fire behavior. “Dust devils” were seen in some areas of the fire Monday.