Graphic by Darla Hussey
The growth of the Diamond Creek Fire is shown in this overlay map. The pink boundary is the fire perimeter on Aug. 8, the orange boundary shows the fire perimeter on Aug. 15.

Cooler days, higher humidity help slow progress

By Ann McCreary

The Diamond Creek Fire advanced south out of the Pasayten Wilderness and into the headwaters of the Eightmile drainage last weekend, and fire crews are working to hold the fire along fire lines about three miles south of the Billy Goat Trailhead.

On Saturday (Aug. 12), crews were able to conduct a burnout in the vicinity of the fire lines and create a blackened zone where the fire’s southern perimeter has held, said Jim Archambeault, an information officer with the fire management team.

Fire managers had originally hoped to do a burnout above Billy Goat trailhead, “but the fire aligned with wind and they were not able to do the burn,” Archambeault said. “The fire continued to advance down the canyon…and halted at some point between Billy Goat Trailhead and Copper Glance Trailhead.”

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity that moved into the area over the weekend allowed crews to conduct a burnout and reduce fuels below Billy Goat Trailhead, Archambeault said. Helicopters were dropping water on hot areas that are inaccessible to fire crews. “It hasn’t moved at all in any appreciable amount for four days,” he said.

A cold front over the weekend produced a small amount of precipitation on Saturday, which “allows very fine fuels to be less receptive to fire,” Archambeault said.

The fire was burning on 27,210 acres on Forest Service land as of Tuesday (Aug. 15) and was 8 percent contained. Command of the fire was expected to shift Tuesday from the Nevada Type 3 Team to the Southwest Incident Management Team 5, a larger Type 2 team, which was called in to manage additional resources that have been ordered, Archambeault said.

As of Tuesday there were 239 people assigned to the fire, including six 20-person fire crews. Equipment included two helicopters, 15 engines, seven water tenders and three bulldozers.

Crews are developing hand lines and bulldozer lines in Eightmile, Falls Creek, Cub Creek, Ortell and Goat Creek area, and tying together old roads, old skid trails, old harvest units and prescribed burns. “They are thinking about contingency lines, should the fire decide to get up and move again,” Archambeault said.

With the exception of the fire in the Eightmile drainage, the Diamond Creek Fire remains in the Pasayaten Wilderness. On the east and northeast and northern perimeters “the fire is very quiet,” Archambeault said. It has burned into old fire scars, including the Farewell and Falls Creek fires, or has burned into higher terrain with less fuel.

On the northwest side there has been slow growth toward Cougar Lake, Island Mountain and Murphy Creek. On the west side there has been some growth in the Rampart Creek area.

The Diamond Creek Fire was first observed on the evening of July 22 by a hiker, who climbed to a ridge to call in a report the next morning. It appears it was human-caused; an investigation is underway. The point of origin was at the bottom of Diamond Creek adjacent to the trail, where evidence of a campfire was found, according to Forest Service officials.

The fire began under extreme fire conditions with high temperatures, low humidity and extremely dry fuels that fed rapid fire growth. Fire managers focused early efforts on preventing the fire’s spread toward Canada, and succeeded in setting strategic fires to stop its movement north.

The fire perimeter is about 12 air miles north of Mazama, and 5.5 miles south of the Canadian border. The fire is expected to continue burning until there is what fire managers call a “season-ending event” such as a wetting rain or snow.

A large fire area closure is in effect.  Eightmile Creek Road (5130) is closed from West Chewuch Road (51) to Billy Goat Trailhead. The Ortell Road (5220) is closed from Cub Pass at the intersection with Sweetgrass Butte Road (5220-100) to the Eightmile Road. Sweetgrass Butte Road is closed from Cub Pass at the intersection with Ortell Road to Sweetgrass Butte. The entire Falls Creek Road (5140) is closed.

Information about the Diamond Creek Fire can be found at www.inciweb.nwcg.gov or on the Diamond Creek Fire Facebook page.