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Small Wildfires Burn All Over Inland Northwest; Fire Terms Explained

Courtesy of Idaho Fire Map

Crews are making good progress on the Andrus Fire west of Spokane. Fire officials peg the size of that fire at 232 acres, down from about 300, as they’ve updated their mapping.

Meanwhile, several smaller wildfires have broken out all over eastern Washington and northern Idaho. One of the largest is a 60-acre fire burning in the flats near the Cataldo Mission. A variety of smaller fires are burning in clusters all over the region. Among them, the mountainous areas to the north and east of that one in Shoshone County, to the south and east in Shoshone and Benewah Counties, a small cluster of fires to the east of Sandpoint, And a variety of fires are burning in the southeastern corner of Washington and then across the border to the south of Lewiston, Idaho. The largest of those is the Joseph Canyon fire, which has charred about 7,500 acres and is 95% contained.

The largest fire burning in the region is the Batterman Fire, which has charred nearly 15-thousand acres in Douglas County near Wenatchee. It’s about 50% contained.

Wildfire terms

When fire officials refer to the 232 acre size of the Andrus fire, does that mean the whole 232 acres is on fire?

“When we give acreage, what we are referring to is the footprint of that fire. It does not necessarily imply that that entire, say, 300 acres is actively burning. However, that is the fire perimeter and the fire footprint," said Ryan Rodruck, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The Andrus fire is also reported as 30% contained. What does that mean?

“When we say contain a fire, that means that we have established a fuel break around the fire and it has either been completed or we will give a percentage of completion. The fuel break might include natural barriers or manmade manually or mechanically-constructed line," Rodruck said.

When a spokesman says a fire has been controlled, "It typically means that the fire line has been established and strengthened so that any flareups from within the perimeter of that fire would not break through that line," he said.

Rodruck says the language of wildfires has its own glossary, compiled by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. You can find it online.