Firefighters were able to knock down a fire in a trailer and structures near the Lost River Resort airport in Mazama on Saturday evening (Aug. 26) and prevent it from spreading to the forested area around the property.
Okanogan County Fire District 6 responded to a reported structure fire just before 6 p.m. on Emerson Road next to the small airport at the end of Lost River Road, calling firefighters from Mazama, Winthrop and Twisp.
An engine from the district’s Mazama station arrived first “to find heavy fire” in a fifth-wheel trailer on the property, said Rusty Stamps, assistant chief. Fire was also burning a storage shed, two vehicles and in trees next to the shed, Stamps said.
The Mazama engine crew was able “to knock it down” and prevent the fire from spreading until other firefighters and equipment arrived, Stamps said.
About 20 firefighters responded with three structure engines, two water tenders, an interface engine capable of fighting structure
and wildland fires, and an air support truck.
There was very little wind at the time, which helped firefighters prevent the fire from spreading to the dry forests surrounding the property, Stamps said.
The property owner had noticed smoke and ran to the fifth-wheel trailer. When he opened the door he saw the kitchen on fire, which spread to throughout the interior. Realizing he couldn’t fight the fire with a garden hose, he called 911, according to information from Fire District 6.
There were no injuries to residents or firefighters, Stamps said. However, the owner’s daughter, who lives in the trailer, lost everything inside. Her two dogs and a vehicle were unharmed, according to the fire district.
The potential for the fire spreading into surrounding wildland prompted responses from other agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Stamps said. A helicopter that was being used to fight the Blue Lake fire was diverted to the fire in Lost River.
“The Forest Service monitors our dispatch and they were able to provide air attack resources in case we needed it. They were calling air attack as I was into the first two miles of my response from Winthrop. They were overhead” during the fire, Stamps said.
Forest Service and DNR personnel also arrived on the scene, but there was no need for assistance from outside agencies, he said.
Fire hydrant makes a difference
The Lost River fire provided the first live test of a new fire hydrant installed last summer in Mazama. The hydrant allowed water tenders to “get a pretty quick turnaround … under 30 minutes” to refill and return to the fire scene, Stamps said.
The hydrant is located at Lost River Road and Mazama Pines Lane on county land, and provides about 500 gallons per minute year round.
The hydrant was funded through a combination of community fundraising and federal pandemic recovery funds. About $20,000 was donated (mostly by residents of the upper valley) through a fundraising drive led by volunteer firefighter Alan Fahnestock, who also supervised the hydrant installation.
The hydrant proved to be an important asset in fighting the fire in Lost River, Fahnestock said.
“We used the hydrant … for filling water tenders (3,000-gallon water trucks) to supply our attack engine at the fire on Emerson Street, adjacent to the Lost River airstrip. This is the first time it has been used during an active firefight as there haven’t been any other fires in the area in the past year,” Fahnestock said.
“If the hydrant had not been developed, we would have had to travel to Winthrop to fill, or to deploy portable pumps in the river or other water source, a slow and arduous task even when the water isn’t as low as it is now,” he said.
“It will be very useful in the future,” Stamps said.
Stamps urged Methow Valley residents to be aware that wildfire risk remains high. “Our summer is not over yet. We want to make sure people don’t let their guard down on things like running equipment on dry ground,” he said.