Wenatchee Complex fire update

NASA satellite image taken Sept. 17 shows smoke settling into the valleys from Lake Chelan (at the north end of the image) to Ellensburg (south). Though not nearly as dense as in the Wenatchee area, some smoke has been filtering north through the Okanogan River Valley as well.

InciWeb update, Sept. 20, 9:00 a.m.

We appreciate the continued efforts of the following cooperators: Wenatchee Fire Districts 1 and 7, Chelan Fire Districts 1, 3, 4, 6, 8 and Chelan County Sheriff’s office.

More than 100 people attended a public briefing at the Recreation Center in Lake Wenatchee last night. Fire officials were on hand to provide an update on fire activity in the area and to answer questions and discuss issues with the attendees.

Firefighters have had much success securing fire lines and limiting the spread of fires at the north and east ends of the complex that previously threatened homes in the Wenatchee, Cashmere, Entiat and Chelan areas. These fires include First Creek, Byrd Canyon, Canyons, Poison and Peavine fires. Last night, Evacuation Levels for Granite Falls and First Creek Roads in Chelan County were reduced from a Level 3 to Level 2.

Despite these successes, the dynamic fire situation continues to present challenges to firefighters. Fires have grown in size in the high country near Lake Wenatchee (Sears, Basalt and Maverick fires), in the upper Entiat River drainage (Klone and Pyramid fires), and Cashmere Mountain. Fires in the Table Mountain Complex have grown rapidly over the last few days, sending large smoke columns with burning embers north and east towards the Mission Ridge area. This extreme fire behavior prompted Chelan County Sheriff officials to issue Level 3 Evacuation Notices for Squilchuck and Mission Ridge Roads from the Wenatchee Heights Road south to the Mission Ridge Ski Area and including Halvorson Canyon and Hampton Road. Fire managers continue to work in close cooperation with the Type 2 team managing the Table Mountain Complex. up-to-date information on evacuations can be heard on local media in Wenatchee or by checking www.inciweb.org/incident/3258.

According to Incident Commander, Jeff Pendleton, our objectives for this complex of fires have been to protect high values at risk and provide for public safety, which meant we were fighting fires at the east end of the complex and at lower elevations. As we are wrapping up those fires, we are now turning our attention to the west and higher elevations. We are moving into dense timber, and need to use different tactics that require more indirect actions. We need to continue to be flexible, mobile and agile in order to respond to constantly changing conditions.

The Klone Fire continues to burn in heavy timber that has been affected by insects and disease. Shady Pass and Tommy Creek roads are still being prepped and cleared as contingency lines. Most fire activity was on the south end of the fire, backing off steep slopes. The sprinkler system installed around the recreation cabins continues to provide protection should the fire move in that direction. Additional resources have been moved from other fires to assist in the suppression effort on this fire. This fire is approximately 1,000 acres.

The Maverick Fire is approximately 30 acres. Crews have completed hand line around 50 percent of the fire. Firefighters will continue to build fire line today.

The Canyons Fire, directly west of Wenatchee, and the Byrd Canyon Fire, located just north of Entiat, are both 90% contained. These fires continue to be in patrol status, and crews will continue to mop up into the perimeter of the fires. The Canyons Fire is estimated to be 7,600 acres in size. The Byrd Canyon Fire is estimated to be 14,000 acres.

The Peavine Canyon Fire, located southwest of Wenatchee in upper Mission Creek/Devils Gulch, is burning in shrub and pine forest. It is 6,233 acres in size. Line construction and burning operations have been conducted on this fire. This fire is 10% contained.

The Poison Canyon Fire, located south of Cashmere, is burning in shrub and pine. It is approximately 6,000 acres and 30% contained. Crews successfully completed a burnout operation last night along the dozer line constructed between the fire and properties in Camas Meadows on the west side of the fire. Crews continue to improve and mop up the fire perimeter. Structure protection is in place for the Tripp and Mission Creek areas.

The First Creek Fire, located 10 miles west of Lake Chelan in Chelan County, is approximately 1,240 acres and 30% contained. It is burning in very difficult and steep terrain, but firefighters have had success building direct fireline, implementing structure protection, and constructing contingency lines. This fire is almost completely lined and crews will continue mop up efforts today. Evacuation levels have been reduced to a Level 2 for First Creek and Granite Falls Creek Roads.

The Pyramid Fire north of Entiat is estimated to be 40 acres in size. The fire continues to move slowly down slope. Fire line improvements along Entiat River Road and County Road 19 will continue.

The Basalt Fire, approximately 10 miles north of Lake Wenatchee in the Chiwawa drainage is approximately 140 acres in size. The management team is in the process of developing a strategy to manage this fire.

The Sears Creek Fire, located in the White River drainage above Lake Wenatchee, is slowly backing downhill. The lower road has hose lines in place and the structures have been prepped.

The Cashmere Mountain Fire, approximately 650 acres, is within the perimeters of the 1994 Rat and Hatchery fires. It does not pose a danger to structures at this time. A group of rappellers and smoke jumpers continue to put in control lines where possible in order to keep the fire from crossing the Eightmile Trail and from reaching Eightmile Road.

The Incident Management Team continues to have initial attack responsibility for all wildland fires within Chelan County. Resources will be mobilized when there is a new start.

The area is extremely dry and conditions are right for rapid fire growth on existing fires and new fire starts. There is a ban on all outdoor burning in Chelan County, and on fires, campfires, or stove fires on all National Forest Lands within the Chelan, Entiat and Wenatchee River Ranger Districts.

The Incident Management Team would like to express appreciation to the community for your support and help in our efforts to suppress these fires. It is vital that the community cooperate with evacuations, road closures, and avoiding areas of high traffic for fire suppression.

More information: Dangers of smoky air, What four hours of smoke will do to a mask,