• Update 9:30 a.m. July 22
A Level 3 Immediate Evacuation (GO NOW) has been issued for persons living off Wolf Creek Road between the Wolf Creek Bridge and Green Road. The area was previously a level 2. The evacuation order was issued at 11:10 p.m. Wednesday night.
The areas affected include:
Green Meadows Road
Left Fork Wolf Creek Road
Lobus Run Road
Luck Louie Road
WC Fields Road
Wild Den Road
Wolf Ridge Lane
Wolf Song Road
Sun Mountain Lodge
• UPDATE: 4:15 p.m. July 21
Commissioner Hilary Franz announced today during a visit to a Wenatchee wildfire that due to extreme fire danger and ongoing drought, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources would temporarily closing all recreational and public access to DNR-managed lands in eastern Washington beginning 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 23.
“Our firefighters are already stretched thin fighting major fires across our state,” she said, in a statement. “We must take reasonable steps – and make sacrifices – in order to protect them and our communities.”
Methow Trails announced today that it would close all of its trails until conditions change.
“More details will continue to come out from the USFS, DNR, WDFW, Washington State Parks and other partners but for now all trails from the Chickadee trailhead/Sun Mtn, all trails in the Mazama area, Rendezvous trails, and all trails accessed from the Chewuch River drainage are CLOSED to all users,” Methow Trails announced
State ‘strike teams’ to aid local firefighting efforts
By Natalie Johnson
The Methow Valley was again blanketed in smoke Monday and Tuesday mornings (July 19-20) as two major wildfires — at Cedar Creek and Cub Creek — continued to grow.
The Cub Creek Fire was first reported at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday (July 16), and grew from a relatively small brush fire near the intersection of West Chewuch and Cub Creek roads to a more than 32,000-acre blaze in a matter of days, with help from hot, dry temperatures and windy conditions.
The Cedar Creek Fire, which started west of Mazama, has grown from less than 1,000 acres at this time last week to now close to 8,443 acres, at 11% containment as it moves eastward.
Both fires continued to grow Monday, helped by strong afternoon and evening winds.
“It’s ever-changing and somewhat dynamic at this time with the current weather we have and the winds that are predicted this thing is going to continue to march across this landscape here,” said Mark Rapp of Northwest Incident Management Team 8, which was assigned to the Cedar Creek and Delancy fires and then took on the Cub Creek Fire as well.
The Cedar Creek fire was pushed by wind to just behind the Mazama station of Okanogan County Fire District 6 late Monday night and has forced level 3 evacuation orders from the northern end of Cassal Ranch Road southwest to Wolf Creek Road at about milepost 188 on Highway 20.
Firefighting aircraft were grounded for much of the day Tuesday due to low visibility from the smoke.
Pearrygin Lake State Park was closed and evacuated Tuesday.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced a portion of Highway 20 west of Mazama closed due to the fire will likely stay closed through July.
Another fire, which Okanogan County Fire District 6 is calling the Barnaby Fire, was reported July 13 in the Twin Lakes neighborhood. Outbuildings were destroyed on one property, but the primary residence was saved. Fire crews responded quickly and had the fire under control that evening.
On Tuesday, the state Fire Marshal’s Office authorized state fire assistance for the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires. Three strike teams from the state Fire Protection Bureau have been ordered to report to the fires.
A public meeting to provide information on the Cub Creek Fire and Cedar Creek and Delancy fires is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday (July 21) at Mack Lloyd Park in Winthrop.
Maurice Goodall, Okanogan County Emergency Management director, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that no houses had been destroyed in the Cedar Creek or Delancy Fires.
However, one house has been confirmed to have been destroyed by the Cub Creek Fire, and two other reports of structures damaged are being investigated. Goodall also said a handful of outbuildings and one travel trailer that had been permanently parked at a location were destroyed.
Cedar Creek/Delancy Fires
The Cedar Creek and Delancy fires have now been burning for more than a week after being sparked by a lightning storm on July 8 that landed more than 50 lightning strikes in the Methow Valley, and sparked more than a dozen reports of smoke and a number of small fires.
Most of those were extinguished quickly thanks to smokejumpers and other early responders, but the Cedar Creek Fire and Delancy Fire are still burning, and likely to continue burning.
On July 15, the Cedar Creek and Varden fires officially merged, and are now being referred to as the Cedar Creek Fire. As of Monday night, that fire had reached about 5,945 acres.
A large column of smoke towered above the fire Sunday. The smoke plume was easily visible from western Washington over the weekend.
“If you’re in the valley here, a pretty significant column developed yesterday (Sunday, July 18) and that was primarily in the Cedar Creek, Huckleberry Creek area,” said Rapp of Northwest Incident Management Team 8.
On Tuesday, Rapp reported late-night efforts to fight the fire as wind pushed it down to just behind the Mazama fire station.
“We had to rustle up some resources in the middle of the night and get them out there to assess and do some protection or potential protection of structures in the valley floor here,” he said at a Tuesday morning briefing.
The fire remained about 1,000 feet from the lowest point of the valley floor. The fire moved along Sandy Butte Ridge down to Little Boulder Creek. Winds were forecast to continue through the day and firefighters were continuing to lay in dozer lines to try to contain the fire.
Meanwhile, the Delancy Fire also saw increased activity and has grown to 180 acres. The fire is being monitored, but isn’t staffed right now.
Neither fire is likely to be out until snow hits the higher elevations in the Methow — the Northwest Incident Management Team in charge estimates these fires will stick around until October.
On Tuesday, an area between Lost River and Goat Creek Road on the west side of Highway 20 was upgraded to a level 2 evacuation. Goat Creek Road to milepost 185 of Highway 20 on the west side of the highway was still level 1. The level 3 evacuation order has been expanded since Monday morning to the northern end of Cassal Ranch Road southwest to Wolf Creek Road at about milepost 188 of Highway 20.
As of the most recent briefing, 351 total personnel are assigned to the Cedar Creek Fire, including four type 1 hotshot crews, three type 2 hand crews, one camp crew, one heavy helicopter, 10 engines, two dozers, three water tenders and other equipment.
Cub Creek Fire
Firefighters responded at about 1:30 p.m. Friday (July 16) to a brush fire that soon grew to threaten area homes off West Chewuch Road at the Cub Creek drainage.
At about 2:30 p.m., the fire had grown to at least 10 acres and was heading up the Cub Creek drainage, pushed by winds.
Crews from Okanogan County Fire District 6, the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service responded. Helicopters were diverted from the Cedar Creek Fire and immediately began dropping water on the fire as it raced uphill from Cub Creek at West Chewuch Road.
Early reports to Okanogan County dispatch indicated the fire might have originated with an irrigation pump.
By midnight that night, the fire had grown to 1,500 acres and led to level 2 and 3 evacuations in the immediate area. The Red Cross set up a shelter for evacuees at Methow Valley Elementary School, which is still open.
By Sunday, the fire split into two fingers, with the east side burning over Boulder Creek and east toward the Tripod Fire scar and First Butte Lookout. The west finger was burning north parallel to the Chewuch River. The fire crossed 8 Mile Ridge south of Paul Mountain. At that time, the fire had grown to 4,690 acres and was 5% contained. The Washington state structure strike team has been assigned to protect properties in the area and are staging at 8 Mile Ranch.
On Monday morning, the fire had nearly doubled in size, reaching 8,255 acres at 5% containment. A massive smoke plume was visible from all over the valley. The incident response team in charge of the fire reported the left flank had been lined with bulldozer lines from the “heel” of the fire to First Creek Road, and at that portion was considered contained. However, the right “finger” of the fire was continuing to burn north and get ahead of firefighters.
“It’s going to outpace us for a while,” said Chad Schmidt, operations section chief for the Cub Creek Fire, in a Monday morning briefing. He said crews were aggressively working to prepare properties in the fire’s path and were feeling confident about protecting them.
On Tuesday, the fire had continued to grow north in both of its fingers, and is now estimated at 32,473 acres at 5% containment.
“Yesterday was a big fire progression day unfortunately heading to the north,” Schmidt reported on Tuesday. “Today this left finger of fire is all the way up through doe creek. … As far as this east finger of fire, it’s working its way all the way to 20 Mile.”
Their objective was to keep the fire from moving out of the Boulder Creek drainage.
Crews were still working Tuesday to hold fire lines at the southern “heel” of the fire to protect the area with the most property at risk.
As of Monday night, 218 people were assigned to the fire, including two initial attack hand crews, two type-2 hand crews, two heavy helicopters, one medium lift helicopter, one light-lift helicopter, seven fire engines, one bulldozer, three water tenders and other resources.
Roads closed include: Rendezvous; Banker Pass; East and West Chewuch and at the junction of the Forest Service Roads 39 and 37 due to down power lines, rolling debris, and falling trees; Goat Creek Road at the junction of the 52 and 5225 Road; 100 spur of West Fawn will be closed at the 5217 Road; 100 spur of East Fawn will be closed at the 5217 Road; 5215 Road; 5008 Road 100 spur road in Bear Creek; 5009 Road 100 spur road in Ramsey Creek; 5009 Road 100 spur road in Pearrygin Creek; 4225 Road; 4235 Road.
The incident management team has not released any official information on loss of homes or other structures.