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Wildfire forces evacuations in Post Falls

by JOSA SNOW
Staff Reporter | August 4, 2023 9:23 PM

POST FALLS — A wildfire ignited on the south side of Q'emiln Park around 2 p.m. Friday grew to 60 acres by 8 p.m. prompting the evacuation of more than 100 homes.

“Unfortunately the fire is believed to be moving toward residences and not away from them,” Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said.

Due to winds and weather conditions, all residents from Riverview Drive and Riverview Terrace north to the Spokane River were affected by a Level 3 “GO” evacuation as of 8:35 p.m., according to a notice from Kootenai County Emergency Management.

“It will remain this way overnight and will be reassessed in the morning,” the notification said.

The sheriff’s office issued evacuation orders for West Parkway Drive, West Park Lane, South Larolyn Road, West Hughes Lane, South South Way and West Rio Vista Place.

Others in the surrounding area were put under an advisory to be ready to evacuate if necessary.

“In addition to fire suppression, we’re also doing what we call structure protection on some of those homes right now,” Kootenai County Fire and Rescue Chief Chris Way said.

Kootenai County issued a disaster emergency declaration regarding the Post Falls fire, because the fire is an “imminent threat to structures” and because “Kootenai County does not have the resources to respond,” according to the language in the declaration.

Firefighters from Kootenai County Fire and Rescue and the Idaho Department of Lands coordinated an effort to contain the fire, with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police and Post Falls Police Department controlling traffic and coordinating the evacuations.

The fire departments orchestrated a ground and air assault with two heavy air tankers, an air boss and smaller planes.

Air support was called off at 8 p.m. due to dust and reduced visibility through the night.

Firefighters planned to focus overnight on structural protection, with a command briefing scheduled at 6 a.m. to reassess.

Possible thunderstorms and potential for increased wind had fire crews concerned going into the night.

“We’ve done a callback to try to staff extra units, and I know IDL is bringing in extra units," Way said. "But of course, one of the issues we’ve been having is we do have other fires in the area so resources are stretched thin and we’re competing for other resources at the moment.”

A shelter was set up at Mullan Trail Elementary at 5 p.m. to provide shelter to evacuated residents.

"So far people are safe," Norris said. "However we are still assisting in evacuations."

The sheriff's office shut down Spokane River traffic to protect boaters and allow aerial firefighters to easily access water from the river.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Photo by Deb Korzen, Post Falls

Aerial firefighters attack the Parkway Fire near Q'emiln Park in Post Falls.

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Photo courtesy of The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

Air support drops 100s of gallons of water on the flames of the Parkway Fire to support ground crews.

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Photo courtesy of The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

The Parkway Fire in Q'emiln park ignited at the Greensferry trail head and fire crews began to work to contain it from the air and ground, dropping flame retardant from above.