Eagle Bluff Fire moderates, 80% contained in U.S.
After minimal activity during its first few days, the Sourdough Fire grew exponentially in hot, dry and windy conditions, going from 30 acres on Thursday (Aug. 3) to 534 acres the following day and to 1,440 acres as of Monday (Aug. 7), the latest information available.
The fire forced closure of a 36-mile stretch of the North Cascades Highway from Nehalem to Rainy Pass on Friday night (Aug. 4) by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), at the request of the Sourdough Fire Incident Management Team. Decisions to close the road are made in cooperation with the management team, based on fire behavior, fire proximity to the road, hazards such as debris on the roadway, weather, and fire-mitigation strategies, according to WSDOT Northwest Region Communications Manager RB McKeon. There was no estimate for when the road would reopen.
The fire is burning about 7 miles northeast of Newhalem, just north of the highway and the community of Diablo, and along parts of the northern shores of Diablo and Gorge lakes. Fire activity and growth has increased to the east, west and north, burning toward the top of Sourdough Mountain.
The fire has backed down to the North Cascades Highway and road systems near Diablo. As of Monday, fire crews were doing mop-up in those areas and securing containment lines, said Operations Section Chief Cary Neu with Northwest Incident Management Team 10, which assumed control of the fire on Monday. Crews have removed vegetation along the highway to strengthen the line.
In addition to trying to control the blaze, fire personnel have been working on structure protection in the town of Diablo and at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. They have wrapped the historic Sourdough Lookout. They’ve also done structure protection on the floating resort on Ross Lake, Neu said.
Firefighters face challenges because the terrain makes access to parts of the fire difficult. Crews were transported by boat to the Ross Lake Resort. Helicopters have been used to drop water on the fire and to transport equipment to firefighters.
The northernmost part of the Sourdough Fire is currently unstaffed because of difficult access. Fire managers are looking to natural barriers, along with air resources, to control that part of the fire, Neu said.
They have been assessing the powerline corridor to the south and west of the fire as a potential control point should the fire approach the highway again, he said. Fire crews have been scouting other possible control points to the east to keep the fire out of the gorge.
There was no containment on the fire as of Tuesday morning.
Evacuations are in effect for the Environmental Learning Center and the community of Diablo. There is no access across Diablo Dam and all area trails and campgrounds, including Colonial Creek, are closed. Ross Lake and Diablo Lake are both closed.
The Sourdough Fire was reported on Saturday, July 29, and was ignited by lightning, according to the incident management team.
Air quality in the Methow Valley reached “moderate” and “unhealthy for sensitive groups” levels over the weekend and early in the week because of smoke from the Sourdough Fire, Canadian fires and other nearby fires, according to the air resource advisor with the U.S. Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program assigned to the Sourdough Fire. The main impact of smoke from the Sourdough Fire has been near Ross and Diablo lakes.
Air quality in the Methow was expected to improve early this week.
Eagle Bluff Fire
The Eagle Bluff Fire near Oroville, which spread very rapidly last week, crossing into British Columbia and prompting evacuations on both sides of the border, was 80% contained at 16,428 acres on the U.S. side as of Monday (Aug. 7). The area burned by the fire in British Columbia is even greater, at almost 17,500 acres.
Fire activity has moderated, with short runs, torching and short-range spotting early this week after hundreds of firefighters combatted the blaze last week. The fire has been smoldering and producing smoke during the days, but there has been minimal activity overnight, according to the Northwest Incident Management Team 7.
There were 447 personnel fighting the fire in the United States on Monday, focusing on securing containment lines, mopping up, and identifying repair needs.
Fire activity on the Canadian side has been minimal since late last week, and crews are mopping up and extinguishing hot spots, said Fire Information Officer Nicole Bonnett with the incident management team in British Columbia. The U.S. and Canadian teams partnered on planned ignitions late last week, which were very successful, she said.
Most roads in the area had reopened, but crews were still working on a section of the Loomis-Oroville Road.
The Eagle Bluff Fire was reported on Saturday, July 29. The cause is under investigation by the Washington Department of Natural Resources and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.