By Marcy Stamper
Gold Creek-area evacuations issued
Immediate evacuations were issued for the entire Gold Creek area on Friday afternoon (Aug. 28) after fire activity in the area increased.
The Chelan Complex Fire crossed a fire line on the north side at South Fork Gold Creek on Thursday and fire activity picked up in strong winds on Friday, according to Arlene Perea, a public information officer with the Chelan Complex Fire. The fire was burning in a fairly isolated area, said Perea.
Crews are looking for places to construct bulldozer lines. Goat Mountain near Alta Lake is being closely monitored.
On the western flank of the Chelan fire, crews are patrolling and mopping up.
There is higher humidity over that part of the Chelan fire but little chance of rain.
Twisp River Fire in mop-up
The Twisp River Fire was at 85-percent containment as of Friday morning (Aug. 28), with firefighters patrolling and mopping up in the area. The fire burned 11,831 acres.
Okanogan Complex active on east flank
Other fires in the Okanogan Complex – particularly in the eastern part of the county – were very active on Thursday (Aug. 27), as the inversion lifted slightly, bringing stronger winds and higher temperatures.
The Tunk Block, burning east of Tonasket near the Aeneas Valley, expanded on the northeast and eastern flanks, threatening Disautel on the Colville Reservation. There was extreme fire behavior throughout the fire on Thursday.
The North Star Fire near Nespelem continues to threaten Republic. If weather is favorable, fire managers plan burnout operations in the Aeneas Valley and south of Republic.
The southwestern corner of the Lime Belt Fire near Bobcat Mountain grew toward the Tripod Fire scar. There was also increased activity on the northwestern corner of the Lime Belt Fire in the Sinlahekin Valley near Loomis.
Clearer skies on Thursday allowed fire managers to drop retardant and do aerial reconnaissance. Firefighters have been working to keep the fires away from populated areas and structure protection crews have been working to safeguard homes.
Overcast skies, cooler temperatures and higher humidity were expected to help moderate fire behavior on the Okanogan Complex on Friday. Crews plan to take advantage of those conditions to prepare for an expected increase in wind over the next few days.
The Okanogan Complex is 302,224 acres overall, with 12-percent containment. The percentage of containment dropped because the acreage has increased. A new incident management team from California will take over the Okanogan Complex on Saturday.
There are 1,831 total personnel on the fire, including 37 crews, seven helicopters, 173 engines, one ambulance, 38 dozers, 41 water tenders and one skidder.
New fire in Pasayten Wilderness
The U.S. Forest Service detected a fire in remote, steep and inaccessible terrain near Eureka Lake, north of Robinson Mountain, in the Pasayten Wilderness. The Forest Service sent smokejumpers to the fire on Thursday, but they weren’t able to jump because of the wind, according to Constance Mehmel, a public information officer for the Forest Service.
Because conditions are so dry, the fire would warrant full suppression but because of many large fires in the area that are threatening homes and infrastructure, the Forest Service has decided to monitor the fire for now and to develop strategies for control, said Mehmel.
Upper Skagit Complex active near Newhalem
The Upper Skagit Complex near Newhalem is now 7,832 acres and 37 percent contained. The percentage is based on the area fire managers have designated for containment.
The strong inversion that reduced the spread of the fire for the past two days lifted on Thursday, causing the Goodell Fire to advance slowly toward the southwest. It is still south of the Skagit River.
North of the North Cascades Highway, the west flank of the fire was held at the Goodell Creek. The eastern flank is advancing slowly on both sides of the North Cascades Highway and Gorge Lake. Firefighters are working directly in Goodell Creek to keep the fire from moving west.
Many of the other fires in the Upper Skagit Complex increased in size, but are in remote locations and are not an immediate threat to facilities, according to their public information officer.
Firefighters completed vegetation removal and structure protection in Diablo and at the Environmental Learning Center, using pumps, hose lays and sprinkler systems.
There are 205 personnel working on the fire, including three hand crews, two helicopters, 17 engines and 1 water tender.
Weather warning for Saturday
A red-flag warning has been issued for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for areas in North-Central and Eastern Washington where fires are already burning. Strong winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour (mph) with gusts as high a 60 mph – and even 70 mph in the mountains – along with low humidity, are predicted. There is a 70-percent chance of rain.
On Friday afternoon, an immediate evacuation was issued for the North, Middle and South forks of Gold Creek; Gold Creek Road and Gold Creek Loop Road because of a rapidly advancing fire.
The Aeneas Valley, Crawfish Lake and other communities near the Tunk Block and North Star fires are under a level 3 (leave immediately) evacuation.
On the North Cascades Highway, west of the crest, the Diablo area, Environmental Learning System, and Ross Lake Resort are evacuated.
In the Methow Valley, Twisp River, the Twisp River drainage and Pine Forest are on a level 2 evacuation (be prepared to leave). Other areas on level 2 are Buzzard Lake, the Chiliwist, Conconully and Loomis.
Twisp, Winthrop, Carlton, Sun Mountain, Mazama, Alta Lake, Brewster, Pateros, Okanogan, Omak and Tonasket are on a level 1 evacuation (be aware of fire in the area).
Road and area closures
The North Cascades Highway is closed from the North Cascades National Park Complex entrance sign (approximately 5 miles north of Marblemount) to Rainy Pass.
Debris from steep slopes on the north side of the North Cascades Highway continue to create hazardous driving conditions for firefighters and Seattle City Light personnel.
Intense burning of the Tunk block on Thursday closed Highway 155 between Omak and Nespelem.
For more information
For up-to-date information on fire activity, evacuations and road closures, call the Okanogan County emergency operations center at (509) 422-7348 or visit their Facebook page through a link on their website at okanogandem.org.