Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service
Active fire in the upper Drake Creek drainage has been the target of ongoing helicopter water drops.

Local efforts focus on southern perimeter

By Ann McCreary

Fire officials on both sides of the border were keeping watch on the Diamond Creek Fire as it advanced northward early this week toward Canada.

“There was substantial growth” on the north end of the wildfire, which had moved to within about 3 miles of the border, said Connie Mehmel of the Methow Valley Ranger District. The district took over command of the fire last week from an incident management team.

The fire advanced in the East Fork Pasayten Creek into Whistler Basin and around Deception Pass, Mehmel said. She estimated that the fire burned about 1,000 acres on Monday (Aug. 28), fed by high temperatures and low humidity. Although an infrared flight had not pinpointed exact acreage as of Tuesday (Aug. 29), the estimated growth would bring the burned area to about 34,000 acres.

The northward movement of the fire forced the closure of a portion of the Boundary Trail between Spanish Camp and the Pasayten Airstrip. To avoid the closed area, hikers coming from the east would probably need to head out Andrews Creek, and hikers coming from the west would have to travel out via Robinson Creek, Mehmel said.

The Methow Ranger District is coordinating closely with the British Columbia Ministry of Forest Land and Natural Resource Operations, which is doing additional reconnaissance flights to monitor the fire’s northern perimeter, Mehmel said.

“We may get some assistance from Canada on the north end,” she said. “Everybody’s looking at it and trying to make a plan.”

Mehmel said the primary focus for the Methow Valley Ranger District is holding the fire on the southern perimeter. A helicopter is making repeated water drops on the Drake Creek and Pat Creek areas to cool the fire, she said.

“We have to concentrate our efforts on the south end. That’s where we have values at risk,” she said.

Fire crews over the past several weeks have tied together old roads, skid roads, harvest units and prescribed burns to create a contingency fire line south of the fire extending almost all the way from Highway 20 to the West Chewuch Road.

Chippers were continuing this week to treat slash that was created as part of preparation work on the indirect fire line along Ortell Creek and Deer Creek Roads. A road grader and three water tenders have repaired damage to Goat Creek Road past Spokane Gulch that was caused by heavy traffic during fire suppression.

The repair work on the road was expected to continue moving toward Goat Peak Lookout trailhead this week. People traveling on Goat Creek Road (5225) should be aware that heavy equipment is on the road, Mehmel said.

Some unburned interior areas of the fire around Goat Mountain were burning out early this week, and the upper end of the Eightmile Creek drainage in the wilderness is still burning, Mehmel said.

The increase in the fire’s activity filled the valley with smoke again on Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 28 – 29). The extended forecast called for continued hot dry weather with temperatures in the 80s and 90s.

There has been no change in road closures. Road and trail conditions can be found at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/closures/5409/. Fire restrictions remain in place.

The fire was reported on 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 is expected to continue burning until a wetting rain or snow occurs.