Conditions: dry fuel, hot temps, strong winds
The danger of a fire in the Methow Valley and most of Okanogan County is now “very high,” the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced.
DNR increased the precaution level on Friday (July 24) from “high” to “very high” in the Methow and Valley fire danger rating areas. The Valley area encompasses lower elevations in the Methow, including Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp and the lower valley, plus much of Okanogan County. The Methow area covers higher elevations such as upper Twisp River.
Fire danger remains “high” in the Okanogan Highlands and in the Chelan Fire Danger Rating Area.
Fuels are dry and ready to burn as the Methow Valley experiences the hottest temperatures of the summer, with high winds in the forecast, according to Okanogan County Fire District 6.
The Okanogan County commissioners have already banned all outdoor burning on private and county property. Under the ban, charcoal barbecue grills, agricultural burning, and outdoor burning of yard waste are prohibited. Gas-fired barbecues are allowed.
On Tuesday (July 28), state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz imposed a statewide burn ban on DNR-protected lands. Her order covers 12 million acres of public and private land, and is valid through Sept. 30 unless conditions improve.
“We simply cannot take any chances right now with wildfire potential so great,” Franz said in a press release. “Any spark can set off a mega-fire.”
DNR had earlier banned campfires at campgrounds in the Loup Loup and Loomis state forests. The agency had also barred the burning of vegetation and is not issuing permits for debris burning. Industrial fire precautions are also in place.
It was still 78 degrees at 10:30 on July 20 when Fire District 6 responded to a growing wildland fire near the intersection of Highway 153 and Highway 20.
Firefighters from Twisp, Winthrop and Carlton tackled the blaze as it spread in grass and brush from an overlook and down a steep embankment. Crews stopped the spread at about 1 acre. The Washington Department of Natural Resources took over around 1 a.m., allowing the District 6 units to return to stations to get engines back in service. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The day before (July 19), state firefighters extinguished a small grass fire at the Loup Loup campground. On July 23, another small brush fire on Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road, near the intersection with Bear Creek Road, was quickly extinguished.
Between Thursday (July 23) and Monday (July 27), four fires had ignited in eastern Okanogan County. On Monday night, the Anglin Fire east of Tonasket was moving so rapidly that area residents were told to evacuate immediately. As of Tuesday (July 28), it had grown to 1,000 acres, destroyed a residence and two outbuildings, and was 0% contained. The Green Fire, northeast of Riverside, had grown to about 800 acres.