BAER team continues assessment of fires’ long-term impacts
Local U.S. Forest Service officials this week were evaluating road and trail closures in areas impacted by the Crescent Mountain and McLeod fires, to determine where and when the closures can be lifted.
“We anticipate that very soon we will bring everything [closures] back to the fire perimeter area,” said Chris Furr, Methow Valley district ranger.
A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team is studying the fire areas to assess burn severity and the threat of runoff and erosion in areas impacted by fires, and potential downstream impacts. Preliminary findings, which the team was expected to share with the district later this week, may help guide decisions on what areas remain closed, Furr said.
“We’ll be evaluating over the course of the next few weeks what we can open. If we can open areas to over-snow use, we don’t want to close them arbitrarily,” he said.
District employees and contractors are continuing to work on repairing damage caused by construction of fire lines during the height of firefighting efforts. Crews have been installing water bars to divert runoff and reduce erosion, chipping or hauling away vegetation that was cut to create the lines, and placing brush over the lines to protect the soil. Some lines will be reseeded as well.
Some Forest Service roads were damaged by heavy equipment brought in to fight the fires. “There’s lots of washboarding,” Furr said. He said crews were grading roads and making sure culverts are clear.
Depending on the BAER team’s initial assessment, the district may take some actions in the near future to address post-fire risks, such as cleaning culverts or replacing them with larger culverts, or installing gates or signs, Furr said.
Two areas of the fires are still “creeping around,” Furr said. They include the area near Mission Peak on the Crescent Mountain Fire, and the area above Lost River gorge in the McLeod Fire. The fires are anticipated to continue smoldering and moving until heavy rain or snow arrives.
The Methow Valley Ranger District is continuing to monitor the fires, Furr said. “We have some vantage points where we can take a look. Fire behavior is pretty low. We have a helicopter out of Wenatchee that we could use if needed,” he said.
Trees that were cut during firefighting have been hauled out of the fire areas and stacked for commercial sale. Much of it is at the Eightmile Sno-Park north of Winthrop. Furr estimated that approximately 1,900 CCF (hundred cubic feet) of wood will be offered for commercial bids, with saw lengths ranging from 16 feet to more than 40 feet. One CCF is equal to about one cord of wood.
“Some wood was bucked in place — we didn’t haul everything,” Furr said. The district plans to make wood stacked in piles alongside Forest Service roads available for personal firewood gathering. “We’re conscious that we’ve kept people out of wood gathering areas” due to the fires, he said.
Residents should check in with the Methow Ranger District office for information on the location of firewood. “This is a win-win for moving material cut during an emergency off the forest and helping folks heat their homes or support a business,” Furr said.