Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
Helicopter bucket drops in the Eightmile drainage.

Crews work to strengthen lines south of fire

By Ann McCreary

Fire crews continued to strengthen fire lines south of the Diamond Creek Fire this week in case the fire should make a run south.

The fire’s southward progress down the Eightmile drainage has been halted for now, Peter D’Aquanni, an information officer with Southwest Areas Incident Management Team 5, said Tuesday (Aug. 22).

The Diamond Creek Fire ignited just over a month ago, and as of Tuesday had consumed more than 30,000 acres, mostly in the Pasayten Wilderness about 12 miles north of Mazama.

On the fire’s southeast perimeter the fire moved out of the wilderness early last week and burned down Eightmile Road past Billy Goat Trailhead. “We feel comfortable with that peninsula of fire” that extends down the drainage, D’Aquanni said. “The southern edge of the fire is in really good shape.”

Crews have tied together old roads, skid roads, harvest units and prescribed burns to create a fire line extending almost all the way from Highway 20 to the Chewuch Road “that runs in a favorable direction in case the fire came out” of its current southern perimeter, D’Aquanni said.

A hotshot crew worked last weekend in the Pat Creek area in the southwest portion of the fire to build containment lines on the ridge above the drainage. Helicopters were dropping water to slow the fire’s progress down the drainage.

Early this week the fire was also active in the Many Trails Peak area in the northwestern part of the fire.  But in recent days the fire was burning primarily in unburned pockets within the perimeter, and advancing only 300-400 acres per day, D’Aquanni said.  On its most active day, it burned more than 7,000 acres.

The fire is quiet on its western and eastern perimeters, where it is moving into previously burned areas. “The beauty of this fire, if there is a beauty to it, is that there are so many fire scars around this fire they have served as a natural barrier,” D’Aquanni said.

Those include the 2003 Farewell Fire, the 2006 Van Peak Fire and the 2014 Upper Falls Creek Fire on the east, and the 2002 Middle Quartz Mountain Fire, the 2002 Quartz Mountain Fire and the 2014 Middle Mountain Fire on the northwest.

The weather for the coming week calls for continued warm and dry days with temperatures in the 80s and 90s.

The fire was staffed by 328 people early this week. Equipment included 10 engines, two helicopters and a variety of heavy equipment to build fire lines. The fire is estimated to have cost $6.6 million as of this week.

The fire was reported July 23 by a hiker in the Pasayten Wilderness who hiked to a ridgetop to call it in. It is determined to be human-caused, and an investigation is underway.

The fire was considered 40 percent contained as of Tuesday, and is expected to continue burning until a wetting rain or snow occurs.

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.