Tonasket makes contingency plans for fire

TONASKET – Tonasket first response agencies and Mayor Patrick Plumb met Friday evening to make contingency plans should the Carleton Complex fire become a threat to the greater Tonasket area.

The fire, which was ignited by lightning Monday evening, exploded from about 18,000 acres in four separate conflagrations Thursday into a 170,000 acre nightmare by Friday morning, destroying about 100 homes in the Carleton, Pateros and Alta Lake areas yesterday. The fire has continued its march northward, threatening Brewster and forcing the evacuation of Malott earlier this afternoon.

While the threat to Tonasket is not considered imminent, Plumb, EMS director Michael Greene, Fire Chief Jim Rice, Police Chief Rob Burks, Police Sgt. Darren Curtis and several first responders spent about 90 minutes outlining plans for various scenarios that could occur.

“We had the incident commanders responsible of the organizations responsible for (first response in) Tonasket,” Plumb said. One of the main topics of discussion was what conditions would necessitate which level of warning – primarily the position of the fire combined with wind conditions.

“They have trigger point plans,” Plumb said. “If a fire siren goes off longer than usual, the community should be on high alert. If you hear the siren going off in a constant fashion, that’s the time we’re on high alert. Be prepared for action – not necessarily evacuation, but action.

Fire levels are:

  1. Level 1 evacuations are an alert. Residents should be aware of the danger that exists, and monitor local media outlets for information. Residents with special needs, or those with pets or livestock, should take note and make preparations for relocating family members, pets, and livestock.
  2. Level 2 evacuations indicate there is a significant risk to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the area, or, be ready to leave at a moments notice.
  3. Level 3 means danger is currently affecting your area or is imminent, and you should leave immediately.

Level 1 – will be announced through local media and word of mouth.

Level 2 – will be announced by the town siren going off more than 4-5 times.

Level 3 – will be announced by the town siren going off for five to seven minutes (or 15-20 cycles).

“If we get to Level 3, it won’t be out of nowhere,” Plumb said. “We’ll be preparing.”

Also, Plumb said that if power is lost, residents should put a high priority on conserving water.

“The concern is that the pumps will not be able to re-fill the reservoirs with the power out,” he said. “That would limit the water needed for firefighting. We don’t want to drain the reservoirs and have the fire hit.”

Another priority, he said, is mitigating fire hazards on personal property.

“Take care of those now,” he said. “Don’t have things like old pallets, gas cans or firewood right up against your house.”

Plumb added that he is compiling a list of churches willing to assist with cooking, shelter, putting up firefighters if necessary, should an emergency arrive.