Fire crews urge continued caution
Four fires burning in the Methow and just to the east of the valley near Conconully got as much as a half-inch of rain Friday (Aug. 20), enough to give firefighters working to contain lines a much-appreciated boost, crews have reported in the past few days.
“We had a pretty significant precipitation event that really turned the corner for a lot of these fires,” said Todd Carter, incident meteorologist from the National Weather Service.
The majority of that event happened Friday afternoon and evening. Meteorologists predicted a widespread event with strong thunderstorms and spotty rain, with the potential for new fire starts, but ended up getting much more rain than anticipated.
“If you were southeast of Twisp there was 1 to 2 inches of rain, really heavy thunderstorms,” Carter said. “It was a really interesting event.”
Carter gave his briefing at a fire information meeting Monday night through Zoom, which drew about 60 people. Fire meetings have been taking place virtually to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as more strict precautions have been ordered on a state level. The recording of the meeting was later posted on the fires’ Facebook pages.
On Monday, some areas got spotty showers, and some high peaks even got snowfall, Carter said. Low temperatures in the valley have been unseasonably cold, reaching the mid-40s.
“We’ve recently gone through a pretty strong Canadian cold front,” he said. “It has really knocked down the temperatures in the region.”
Temperatures are due for a warming trend later in the week and the weekend, he added. The warmer, drier weather is expected to drive fire activity as well.
“As long as we can keep the top end of the temperature at near seasonal normals, even if we’re not getting precipitation, things might be looking OK in terms of fire,” he said.
California Interagency Incident Management Team 2, a type 1 incident response team, was managing the Delancy, Cedar Creek, Cub Creek and Muckamuck fires as of Monday’s meeting. On Wednesday (Aug. 25), they planned to hand the fires off to Northwest Incident Management Team 9, a type 2 team.
California team 2 has spent about two weeks in the Methow after taking over the fires from two other type 1 teams.
“We made some really good progress over the course of the last several weeks,” said Incident Commander Mike Minton.
Minton cautioned that fire season is not over, and that the interior of these fires, and some unsecured portions of the fireline in very remote areas, will likely continue to burn for some time.
“You will continue to see smoke on days with better burning conditions,” he said.
Speakers at Monday’s meeting also said area residents and visitors will still need to be careful about potentially lighting another fire until a true season-ending event, such as early fall snow.
“I think it’s been really important for us to recognize where we are in the fire year,” Minton said. “We’re still in August. The fuel conditions here in the landscape are still dry. … You’re going to need to be very careful with fire outdoors and in these landscapes for the next month and a half or so. As always your participation in wildfire prevention is always very much appreciated.”
Fires by the numbers
• Cedar Creek — 55,137 acres, 75% contained.
• Delancy — 223 acres, 95% contained.
• Cub Creek — 70,186 acres, 70% contained.
• Muckamuck — 13,119 acres, 40% contained.
Numbers reflect reports from Tuesday morning.