On Friday evening, Creston Valley firefighters were nearly drawn into battling the Parker Ridge wildfire in Idaho that has been filling the area with smoke for two weeks.
“We dodged a bullet,” Canyon-Lister Fire Department Chief Glenn Guthrie said today. “The threat was very real.”
Guthrie said he had driven down to check the situation on Friday afternoon. Later in the evening, he drove a fire truck to the border crossing and, seeing a heavy blanket of black smoke rolling in toward the border, sounded an alarm for firefighters to mobilize.
“On Friday night, Creston Fire Rescue assisted Canyon-Lister Fire Department at the Porthill/Rykerts port of entry in protecting the facilities,” Creston fire Chief Mike Moore said on Saturday. “Due to the high winds there was concern that the fire may spread to the port of entry facilities after portions of Porthill were evacuated.”
Creston sent its aerial truck to the scene and Canyon-Lister firefighters arrived with a fire engine and two water tenders.
“The threat to these facilities passed and crews were not required, but were on standby should the fire spread to this important infrastructure to our community,” said Moore.
Moore expressed his gratitude for the cooperation among agencies.
“Many thanks to Canyon-Lister Fire Department, Canada Border Services Agency and US Customs and Border Protection for the cooperation. Everyone working together provided great opportunity to know that there is an ability to provide great protection to these buildings.”
Guthrie echoed Moore’s sentiments, saying that winds enabled the Parker Ridge fire to jump the Kootenay River in two spots.
“I cannot stress enough, what an outstanding job the U.S. firefighters did under very adverse conditions. Without their brave effort, I have no doubt in my mind that things would have turned out much differently,” he said. “We also need to recognize what a fabulous job US Homeland Security and Canadian border services did in getting civilians and firefighters across the border in a safe manner and without delay.”
He also credited Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B director Tanya Wall and Moore and his crew for their efforts.
Guthrie was less generous in his comments about residents who called his firefighters at their homes during the night, demanding information and becoming abusive when they didn’t get the answers they wanted. Unfounded rumours about evacuation orders to Lister and West Creston residents also abounded on Friday night.
He said an advisory or alert was close to being issued, but that no evacuations were ordered. Evacuations were ordered on the Porthill side as far south as Copeland Road.
Smoke filling the Creston Valley has also been supplemented by the more recent Mount Midgely wildfire, which threatened several residences west of Creston near Highway 3 before provincial fire crews intervened.
The Midgely fire was discovered on Friday and had expanded to cover 332 hectares — a reduction from the initial estimate of 600 hectares — with only 10 per cent of the fire contained.
Battling the fire were 40 firefighters, four helicopters and a fleet of heavy equipment. Three of the helicopters were used to bucket water in an attempt to control the fire’s spread.
On Thursday (Aug. 20), the Canyon-Lister Fire Department is hosting a meet and greet for the public at the fire hall from 7-8:30 p.m.
“Come down and meet the guys and check out our firefighting equipment,” Guthrie said. “Hotdogs and refreshments will be served.”