Containment progresses on lightening fires in Okanogan County

Tim Hoffman, an infrared field observer for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team, shows the palm IR camera he used on the Buffalo Lake Road Fire.  The camera is protected from dust and impact by a padded cover. The camera weighs about four

Tim Hoffman, an infrared field observer for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team, shows the palm IR camera he used on the Buffalo Lake Road Fire. The camera is protected from dust and impact by a padded cover. The camera weighs about four

COULEE DAM – Efforts to contain several lightning caused fires continue in Okanogan County, with the largest, the Buffalo Lake Road fire near Coulee Dam at 100 percent containment as of last Saturday afternoon.

The Buffalo Lake Road Fire started at 2030 on Tuesday, Aug. 14 and grew quickly due to high winds burning approximately 7,800 acres by the evening of Aug. 15. As of Aug. 19, the fire reached 11,299 acres and is 100% contained.

The fire was fought by a crew of 291 representing several agencies and had

21 engines, 12 water tenders and seven hand crews. Initial suppression efforts included building dozer lines and providing structure protection. The firefighters dealt with wind-driven fire fueled by grass, sage, and bitter brush. Nine homes and the communities of Elmer City (pop. 239) and Coulee Dam (pop. 1107) were threatened. Two barns burned, but no homes were lost and only two minor injuries reported.

The most difficult areas to mop up are steep, rocky terrain and sites with a lot of woody vegetation that could contain smoldering logs or roots.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Washington Department of Natural Resources, who are in charge of firefighting on the affected land, define successful mop-up as completely extinguishing and cooling a line that is 50 feet wide in grass, 100 feet wide in timber, and 500 feet wide around houses. Specialists are using hand-held heat detecting machines to identify and mark any remaining hot spots. Crews following

behind the detection effort will dig out, expose, spread, and cool any remaining heat with hand tools like shovels and water.

All roads in the area including Peter Dan Road, Buffalo Lake

Road and Hwy 155 are open. Drivers should use caution, obey

speed limits and watch for fire personnel, say the BIA and DNR. On some sites, rocks or debris may have been loosened when the supporting plants and logs burned away,

Coordination continues between the Colville Confederated

Tribes, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Department of

Natural Resources, US Bureau of Reclamation, Okanogan Fire

District 2, Elmer City Fire Department, Coulee Dam Fire Department, Grant County Fire Department, National Park

Service and Okanogan County

The Lost Monument Fire, discovered on Tuesday, Aug 14, is near the confluence of Monument Creek and Lost River, approximately 19 miles northwest of Winthrop. The cause of the fire was lightning. The fire is estimated to be about 50 acres. It is burning in a steep, rocky, incised gorge within the Pasayten Wilderness. Most of the fire has been confined to the Monument Creek drainage.

The fire has shown no real growth for several days, even during the hot weather over the weekend.

There are no personnel taking direct action on the fire at this time due to the lack of safe access to the fire and other firefighter safety concerns. The fire has been managed under a confinement strategy by two smokejumpers, who have been monitoring the fire from a nearby high point. The fire will continue to be monitored by local personnel.

The Incident Commander has been Ryan McCliment, from the North Cascades Smoke Jumper Base.

As of Aug. 14, the Mt. Barney Fire at the head of Falls Creek, north of Winthrop, was also estimated to be about 50 acres. Command of the fire was under a Type 3 Incident Management Team, but transitioned to the Methow Valley Ranger District on Aug. 15.

Firefighters have gridded and mopped up throughout the main fire area and spot fires last week. Few smokes were found.

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