By Marcy Stamper
Two days of wet weather allowed fire crews to make considerable progress building containment lines on the 250,000-acre Carlton Complex Fire. As of Thursday morning (July 24), the public information officer (PIO) for the incident management team said the fire is at 52 percent containment, the majority of new containment lines added on Wednesday.
Most of the eastern flanks of the fire between Winthrop and Twisp have been contained for two days. The big increase on Wednesday in constructing new fire lines was along the eastern perimeter of the fire, from Pateros and Brewster north to Malott, according to the PIO.
Fire managers use the term ‘containment’ to describe an uninterrupted line along the perimeter of a fire, created by hand or bulldozer and dug down to the soil. It does not mean that the fire is not still burning within the containment area. The perimeter of the Carlton Complex fires was 182 miles as of Thursday.
On Thursday, crews working on the northern section of the fire are taking advantage of the damp conditions to establish new control lines as close as possible to three areas still of concern—the northernmost end of the fire near Pearrygin Lake, the Libby Creek and Gold Creek drainages, and the north and east flanks of the Loup Loup summit, according to the PIO.
The strategy for those areas is an indirect attack. Fire crews will establish a control line at a safe distance from the fire and then burn out fuels between the fire and the control line (using either a constructed line or a natural barrier) early next week, once conditions are dry enough to achieve a complete burn, said the PIO.
Crews are also concentrating on mopping up—checking every square inch within containment lines—to be sure there is no lingering fire in the area.
Powerful storms on Wednesday brought thunder, lightning, rain and hail, with between half an inch and an inch of rain recorded in the northern fire zone. The storm was so severe that crews had to be pulled off the fire for safety on Wednesday afternoon, according to the PIO.
Only localized debris flows and mudslides were reported as a result of the storms.
At least two new fires were ignited by lightning, one near the intersection of Twin Lakes Road and Patterson Lake Road, and one on Highway 20 north of Winthrop. Both were extinguished by local fire crews, according to the PIO. Firefighters will continue to monitor for so-called holdover or sleeper fires that smolder underground and can start to burn days later when conditions dry out, he said.
There are no imminent threats to homes or residents as of Thursday, but that could change with the weather, which is expected to become drier and warmer by the weekend.
On Thursday, there was not a lot of active fire behavior.
Power restoration on schedule
Line technicians from the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) and the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative, along with crews from numerous regional PUDs and coops, are in the process of replacing power poles and repairing the Loup Loup transmission line.
As of Wednesday night (July 23), crews were on schedule for an anticipated re-energization of the transmission line this weekend, restoring power to PUD customers in the town of Twisp and to most coop customers, from Mazama to Winthrop and including some areas near Twisp. The initial repair should restore power to about 85 percent of those who lost power when smoke shorted out the line on July 17, according to David Gottula, general manager for the electric coop.
It will take longer to replace the infrastructure to bring power to customers in more badly burned areas in the lower Methow Valley and near Beaver Creek, he said.