Wednesday, September 12, 2012/lk
One fire comes to a close while another rages into full-gear. Welcome to high fire danger season in the Gorge.
The Highway 141 fire in White Salmon is reported to be nearing 100 percent containment as of Tuesday at press time, but did burn an additional 400 acres over the weekend according to the national incident tracking website InciWeb.
No structure loss occurred and just one injury, a sprained ankle, was reported. Just over 1,644 acres burned. Gorge skies remain filled with smoke Tuesday and residents remain advised to limit outdoor activity, according to the Hood River Public Health Department.
“We’re doing really well. We are in a pretty rapid demobilization phase now so we can send resources to the myriad of other lightening fires across Washington,” said Chuck Turley, public information officer for the Washington Incident Management Team 5, assigned to the fire.
In spite of winds reaching 20 mph with gusts to 35 mph on Sunday following the Saturday lightning and thunder storm that started the blaze, the fire is now in the mop up phases.
“I want to let people know that the teams will complete full mop up within 100 feet of any structures but that isn’t possible to do on the entire 1,600 acres,” said Turley. “There will be continuing smoke and, with some wind, small, active fires may flare up in the interior of the burned area until we have significant rain or snow.”
More than 600 firefighters contributed to the containment efforts with the help of helicopters, airplanes and ground equipment.
According to the InciWeb report, all line construction and burnout operations were completed by Tuesday morning. Hand crews and engine crews were set to continue mop up and rehabilitation activities, and will continue to monitor structures. All Level 2 and 3 evacuation orders were lifted on Monday morning.
Fire crews and equipment are set to continue withdrawing through Wednesday morning when management of the fire will transfer to a smaller, Type 3 organization.
“We want to send a big thank you to all of the community for their support. They have been great. Fire departments, cities – they all provided us with whatever we asked for. Receiving their support was a really great experience,” said Turley.
The Highway 141 fire has been located along the eastside of Highway 141, approximately 2 miles north of White Salmon, Wash. The fire started at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5. It began as four small fires along Highway 141. The cause is still under investigation.
Another wildfire began over the weekend as a result of lightning strikes on the western flank of Mount Adams during Saturday’s stormy weather. The fire has spread to the southern flank of the mountain in the Cascade Creek area.
Burning in inaccessible terrain, the fire had consumed 1,767 acres as of Tuesday morning, according to Fire Information Officer Ken Sandusky, of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Containment was at 0 percent as of 9:15 a.m. Between Monday and Tuesday, over400 acres burned in just 24 hours.
The Cascade Creek Fire is burning mostly in the Mount Adams Wilderness area. It is 9 miles north of Trout Lake.
Much progress was made yesterday in fire line construction on the east and west ends of the fire in anticipation of wind shifts Tuesday and Wednesday.
Heavy fuels, steep terrain, brisk winds, and lack of road access are challenging firefighters on this technically high difficulty fire.
According to the InciWeb report, 40 hikers on Mount Adams were evacuated to trailheads on either side of the fire and escorted out of the area through the use of cellphones and forest service staff escorts. Four hikers were airlifted out by helicopter.
The fire burned actively Sunday through Monday nights and continues on as of press time. More crews and equipment arrived on Monday but with many wildfires burning across Washington State as a result of the lightning storm, resources may become increasingly scarce.
There are currently 269 personnel assigned to the fire as of Tuesday. Two type 1 heavy and two type 2 medium helicopters worked the fire Monday with water drops. Washington Incident Management Team #3 assumed management of the fire.
Hotter and drier weather is expected later in the week, potentially hindering fire-fighting efforts.
Seventeen vehicles that had to be left behind by evacuated hikers at the three trailheads are not damaged as of Tuesday morning.
According to the forest service, a plan is being developed to get the vehicles out, but attempts will be made no earlier than Wednesday morning due to active fire on 8040 road, and danger of falling trees.
Owners are to call 509-660-0100 Wednesday morning between 8 and 8:30 for the latest update on vehicle concerns.