By Natalie Johnson
The exact cause of the Cub Creek Fire is still under investigation, but the state Department of Natural Resources has officially determined that it is a human-caused fire.
The Cub Creek Fire was reported just after noon on July 16, near the intersection of Cub Creek Road and West Chewuch Road. The fire started on private property and quickly began spreading up the Cub Creek drainage.
The full investigation is ongoing and there is no estimated timeline for its completion.
The U.S. Forest Service last week released its Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) report for the Cub and Cedar creek fires, and initially included an incorrect cause for the Cub Creek Fire, though it has since been updated to correct the error.
The report stated that the fire was caused by lightning. However, the fire started on a clear, sunny day, and the National Weather Service’s Spokane office confirmed to the Methow Valley News that it had received no reports of lightning in the Methow Valley on that day.
The Cedar Creek Fire is known to have started from a lightning strike during a widespread storm on July 8. That fire sparked the Cedar Creek, Varden and Delancy fires. The Cedar Creek and Varden fires later grew and merged, and the Delancy fire never grew past about 225 acres.
John Rohrer, wildlife biologist for the Methow Valley Ranger District, working as acting district ranger while District Ranger Chris Furr was out of the office last week, confirmed that the report of a lightning-caused fire for Cub Creek must be an error.
Scanner traffic at the time the fire was reported indicated that the reporting party told dispatchers the fire started as a result of a spark from an irrigation pump, though that has not been confirmed by official sources. The fire burned up to the yard of a home on West Chewuch Road near where the fire started, but crews were able to save the structure. Several structures, including a yurt, were damaged or destroyed in the first few days of the fire.
As of the most current data released, the Cub Creek 2 Fire has burned about 70,186 acres and is 75% contained. The Cedar Creek Fire has burned about 55,572 acres and is listed as 87% contained.
Both fires are being managed by Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest as of Sept. 7 and are being overseen by the Methow Valley Ranger District under Incident Commander Matt Ellis.