Management will transfer to local Forest Service staff
As fire crews begin to focus more on mop-up and fireline repair on the Cedar Creek, Cub Creek and Muckamuck fires, management of the fires will likely pass next week to a team made up of Methow Ranger District and U.S. Forest Service employees, District Ranger Chris Furr said Monday.
For the past week, the fires have been managed by Northwest Team 9, a type 2 Incident Management Team. The team made up of local staff would be a type 3 team, Furr said.
“You’ll start seeing a lot less communication, that’s one of the big difference,” he said. “Bear with us on the communication. I know we’ve gotten used to these daily briefings.”
That team will still have a lot of work to do before the snow falls and ends the fire season, he said.
“The support we have received and the welcoming we have received has been fantastic and it makes a difference,” said Tyson Albrecht, incident commander of Northwest Team 9 at Monday night’s virtual fire meeting.
As of Tuesday, crews were working on the Cedar Creek fire to secure fireline below Vasiliki Ridge on the far northwest portion of the fire near Highway 20. They also planned to continue monitoring fire on Abernathy Ridge to make sure it didn’t cross into the Twisp River Road area. Crews were using water drops as needed and using infrared cameras to check for hotspots.
Crews were also using infrared cameras on the Cub Creek fire early this week to find hot spots, and were focusing on mop-up work and repairing dozer lines.
The Muckamuck Fire near Conconully is the newest of the four fires, and fire crews were still working on some controlled burns and strengthening containment lines this week.
“They’re going interior with mop-up and getting any heat they find in there,” said Ron Simpson, of Northwest Team 9 on Monday evening.
On the northeast part of the Muckamuck fire, Simpson said crews were dealing with patchy burned areas and a line that was proving harder to secure.
“The fire was what we call a dirtier burn,” he said. “Just a lot of work in there and they’ll continue on that for the next few days. They’re making progress.”
Fire behavior analyst Roy Walker said winds as high as 25 miles per hour, coming with the continued cold front in the valley, were affecting fire efforts.
“Starting again tomorrow this cold front moves on through and we’ll start seeing … a little bit of a drying trend,” Walker said Monday evening.
With the fires nearly contained, work for the forest service will focus on repair. A Burned Area Emergency Response team, or BAER, is evaluating the fires now, Furr said.
“We’ll have that report here within the next week and a half to two weeks,” Furr said. “That will tell us some of those most critical areas we need to be concerned about.”
A number of areas within the fires’ footprint are still closed, though some have been reopened, Furr said. Even if the fire is out, hazards like burned trees can make these areas very dangerous for visitors.
“It’s not just the open fire out there on the landscape that drives the need for these closure orders, it’s also the heavy equipment and repair work that’s ongoing and some of these roads have been impacted with high intensity fire,” he said.
Some areas will have to be closed through spring, he said, including the Falls Creek Drainage area. For information on closures of trails, roads and campgrounds on U.S. Forest Service land affected by the fires, go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/okawen/alerts-notices/?cid=stelprdb5308307.