By Marcy Stamper
This past week, firefighters have concentrated on controlling two fires started by lightning on Aug. 2 and 3, the Little Bridge Creek Fire near Thompson Ridge above Twisp River and the Upper Falls Fire near Falls Creek in the Chewuch drainage.
With continued hot and dry weather and red-flag warnings for extreme fire conditions, both fires grew considerably over the past week. As of Tuesday (Aug. 12), the Little Bridge Creek Fire is approximately 4,000 acres and the Upper Falls Fire is 7,100 acres. Both are burning in steep, heavily forested terrain, meaning that crews have focused primarily on building control lines away from the fire and using aircraft to drop water and retardant.
Little Bridge Creek Fire
Because the Little Bridge Creek Fire is burning in rugged terrain with limited access, fire managers have had adequate time to forecast growth of the fire and to prepare several contingencies, according to a public briefing on Friday (Aug. 8). Over the weekend, crews successfully completed two burnouts to consume fuel between the fire and Thompson Ridge, the containment line closest to the fire. That also provides safer areas for crews to combat the fire.
Crews have removed brush along Thompson Ridge Road to strengthen it if needed as a secondary fire line. On the north and northwest side of the fire, they are using natural features such as rocks to slow the fire’s progress.
Crews are focusing this week on keeping the fire on U.S. Forest Service land, south of Thompson Ridge and out of the Wolf Creek drainage and the vicinity of Sun Mountain Lodge, according to Trish Hogervorst, a public information officer with the incident command team. On Monday, they used retardant to contain a spot fire that had sprung up on the other side of the ridge.
Upper Falls Fire
The Upper Falls Fire is burning in a roadless area between Falls Creek and Farewell Creek, near the Pasayten Wilderness.
Part of the Upper Falls Fire was very active on Sunday and Monday (Aug. 10 and 11), spotting across Falls Creek Road toward Eightmile Road. On Monday, helicopters dropped water on the west side of the fire to delay movement down Eightmile Ridge. Dozers have been constructing fire lines from Falls Creek Road to Eightmile Road.
Crews are now holding the fire along Falls Creek Road, said Hogervorst. The northern portion of the fire is moving gradually toward the Pasayten Wilderness and scars from the Farewell and Tripod fires.
The Carlton Complex, at more than 256,000 acres, is in the patrol and mop-up phase, with some hot spots in the interior that crews are working to control. Anyone seeing a hot spot near the edge of the fire should call 911.
Weather is predicted to be unstable through Friday, with some rain and lightning storms, said Hogervorst. “This week, we’re trying to hold the lines because the weather is expected to be very squirrelly,” she said.
As of Aug. 12, the three fires are being managed by Great Basin Team I, which will also coordinate fire response on all new fire starts on Forest Service, state and private lands in the Methow Valley Ranger District.
The fire camp has relocated to the Twisp-Carlton Road and rehabilitation is under way at Liberty Bell High School and on the school grounds to be ready for the start of school on Sept. 2.
There are still more than 1,700 personnel working on the fires, said Hogervorst. Because of recent lightning strikes in Oregon and wildfires throughout the West, resources may need to be shared, she said.
As of noon on Tuesday (Aug. 12), a Level 1 evacuation notification remained in place for the Pine Forest and Sun Mountain areas, and for Twisp River Road above Elbow Coulee Road, in conjunction with the Little Bridge Creek Fire. A Level 1 evacuation notification is also in place for Pearrygin Lake State Park and on West Chewuch Road, from the bridge where it meets East Chewuch Road to the forest boundary, in conjunction with the Upper Falls Fire.
No structures or infrastructure are immediately threatened, and there are no Level 2 or 3 evacuation notices in place, according to Okanogan County Emergency Management.
As of Aug. 12, fire information for these three fires is available at 997-0878 or 997-0880, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lone Mountain 1 Fire
The Lone Mountain 1 Fire is burning northeast of Stehekin in the Boulder Creek drainage. There are 45 people assigned to the fire, working to keep it out of the War Creek drainage. The fire, which was started by lightning on July 14, has grown minimally in the past two weeks and is now about 2,770 acres.
Information about the Lone Mountain Fire is available at 997-0857.