Firefighting crews’ assignments to change this week
After nearly a month of fighting the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires, crews reported positive news at a Monday evening (Aug. 9) meeting — that both fires have significant containment.
Southwest Area team Incident Commander Dave Bales reported Monday the Cub Creek fire was at 62,368 areas and 26% contained, though by the next morning the containment had increased to 50%.
On Tuesday morning (Aug. 10), the Cedar Creek fire was at 52,859 acres and 34% containment.
Much of the eastern boundary of the Cedar Creek fire is considered to be contained, except for a portion at Silver Star Creek along Highway 20 at milepost 145 and another portion near Freestone — an ongoing problem patch where snags continually catch on fire and reignite new fuel.
“We have not seen any forward movement, we have not seen any spots in a couple days,” said Great Basin Incident Commander Evans Kuo on Monday regarding an area near Little Bridge Creek. “It just needs another day or so for us to call it contained.”
At the end of last week, crews put a sprinkler system around the Freestone snag patch to help keep it under control.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) assumed responsibility for management of the fire’s line from Mazama to about Patterson Lake, where the fire line was considered to be secure.
In the area of Thompson Ridge, Cabin Creek and Little Bridge Creek, lines were still not secure Tuesday. Crews were dropping water on that portion of the fire.
“What’s slowing us down more than anything is a lot of the work that went on in there was very effective and kept the fire from making it all the way to the road, which is a good thing for fire control, but we found it is also slowing us down in getting the edge mopped up,” said Frankie Romero, with operations for Great Basin Team 1, of fire in the Cabin Creek area on Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday, the Great Basin team was working on contingency plans if the fire moves across Abernathy Ridge above the Twisp River Drainage.
“If in fact that were to happen we’re in the process of getting some control lines established,” Romero reported Tuesday morning.
More equipment personnel will be visible in Twisp River drainage as that gets underway, he said.
The Great Basin and Southwest Area teams are planning on transitioning away from the Cedar Creek fire this week as work on the Cedar Creek, Cub Creek, Delancy and Muckamuck Fire near Conconully will transition to California Incident Management Team 2.
Over the weekend, crews from the Southwest Area team broke off from the Cub Creek fire to help with the Muckamuck fire, which started on Aug. 4. As of Tuesday morning, it had reached 1,179 acres.
The Southwest Area team reported some concern that the Muckamuck fire could impact some of its eastern fire lines on the Cub Creek Fire if it continues to grow.
A storm on Aug. 3 resulted in some showers falling across the fires with some areas getting greater than 1/10 of an inch.
In 24 hours, local fire crews responded to 21 reports of possible fires started by lightning strikes. According to Incident Meteorologist Steve Bodnar, of the National Weather Service, reported that 292 lightning strikes were reported in Okanogan County during Tuesday’s storm.
According to the National Weather Service, 1,399 lightning strikes were reported in Washington.
High winds were also reported due to the storm. A weather station at Lewis Butte reportedly clocked a gust at 63 miles per hour.
Meteorologists at the scene predicted all of that before the storm hit with the help of a weather balloon, Bodnar said.
“What these instruments do is measure the temperature, the humidity, the wind speeds, wind direction and the pressure, and send that information down to us onto a radio and we can plot it,” Bodnar said in a video posted online Wednesday. “We do that so we can see what the weather is doing directly over the fire.”
On Tuesday, they were expecting thunderstorms in the afternoon but wanted more information.
“We sent a weather balloon up about an hour or two before the thunderstorms and it gave us a really good idea of what the atmosphere looked like, what kind of storms we may see and we were able to determine they would contain some fairly heavy rainfall, potentially some small hail and the threat for gusty winds,” Bodnar said.
More rain and cool weather came over the weekend, slowing fire progression.
“[We were] very fortunate to have the weather the past couple days,” Bales said. “That was great for our firefighters.”
Temperatures in the triple digits are expected to return this week.