Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chiwaukum Fire, Fire Information, July 16th through July 23rd, 2014

                                                    photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

Chiwaukum Fire, Fire Information, July 16th through July 23rd, 2014.

As the Mills Canyon Fire was winding down the Team was assigned a couple of fires higher up in the Cascades.  One was Kelly Mountain that eight smoke jumpers parachuted in and started fighting the fire.

The other fire was in the Chiwaukum Creek drainage.  It was mostly located on Weyerhauser land high above Highway 2.  The fire was located in cutover timber with a lot of down slash (dry fuel) on the ground. The fire blew up and quickly grew from 500 acres to well over six thousand acres that day.  The column grew to 25,000 feet and was visible from Seattle.  To keep things in perspective this was much shorter than the 50,000 plus column put up by the Table Mountain Fire in 2012.

                                                     photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

I did not get any pictures of the column.  I was too busy driving from the Nason Creek area down the Chumstick back to fire camp.  What is did notice was how dangerous that part of the landscape was if the fire crossed Highway 2.  In the Plain area and the Chumstick there were well over 800 homes under a level 3 evacuation.  Level 3 is "get out now".

The few spots that jumped Highway 2 were all caught by firefighters.  Otherwise we would have been off to the races.  Many of those homes in the Chumstick drainage were not defensible.  The loss of homes would have been devastating.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

The Mills Canyon Fire camp was moved to the National Fish Hatchery in Leavenworth and a helicopter field was established.  

                                                     photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

I "timed out" and demobed on Wednesday, July 23rd.   There is a mandatory two days off before returning to the fire.  I decided to extend the days off for a week since Alexandra was coming over to visit from Seattle.  As I post this on Thursday, July 30th the fire is still burning and put up a "nice" column today.  The good news that it is still burning within fire lines on the north and east sides of the fire.  The west side is burning up into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and higher elevations.  The south side of the fire was a concern when I was demobed as there were no good control lines on that side of the fire.  So it will probably continue creeping south.  This is a picture of the fire as it burned down to the Wenatchee River.

                                                        photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

I go back up as available on Monday, August 4th.  Hopefully, the fire will be well under control and resources will be being demobed.  It is only the start of August and it seems like fire season has been going on for months.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mills Canyon Fire, Fire Information, July 9th through July 15th, 2014

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

Mills Canyon Fire, Fire Information, July 9th through July 15th, 2014.

The previous post covered the first day of the Mills Canyon Fire.  On the second day, a Washington State Incident Management Team took over the management of the fire and I was offered a position in fire information.

The above picture was taken that first night on the fire from the Entitat River Road.  NBC news liked the above photo and asked for a credit line.  I do not know if they used the photo or not.  That night I drove back via Highway 97 across on the other side of the Columbia River and there were some great photo opportunities, however, I decided that sleep was more important than photography at that point.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

The fire burned right down to the river.  The picture was taken from Entiat High School which was the fire camp.  If you enlarge the pictures the tradition is for every graduating class at Entiat High School to paint their year on the rock face.  It looks like the class years survived the fire.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

The above photo was taken driving to camp the following morning.  The fire had reached the highway and for the following week the highway was open and closed depending on fire conditions.  This fire burned over much of the same area that was burned in the Swakane Fire that burned in 2010.

                                                     photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

For several days the fire reached the highway at various points.  The smoke, fire activity, and firefighter trucks lead to the highway closures.  As you can see in the following picture.  It did get dark along the highway.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

For most of the week our house at Burch Mountain Road was under a Level 1 advisory to be prepared for evacuation.  The evacuation notice came just as the Washington State Incident Mangement Team was replaced by a Forest Service Type 1 team.  Northwest Team 3 was also here for the Wenatchee Complex. I also got an evacuation notice, but for Camas when that team was here two years ago.  Team 3 shows up and I get an evacuation notice!

Washington Team 2 was reassigned to the Carlton Complex to deal with one of the four lighting fires burning in the Methow River drainage.   That at the time looked like the easier assignment, but with the high winds a couple of days later it turned into the firestorm that ran all the way into Pateros, Washington.

For me, I was looking forward to a couple days off as Mills Canyon came under control, but then the team was assigned a fire high above Highway 2 at Coles Corner.  That resulted in another eight days on a fire assignment and will be covered in the next posting.

                                                       photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

Fire season is early this year and many of the starts are human caused.  Be careful out looks to be a very long fire season.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mills Canyon Fire, July 8th, 2014, Entiat, Washington

Mills Canyon Fire, July 8th, 2014, Entiat, Washington

It looks like this summer will be a hot one in central Washington.  The forecast is for hot weather the next two weeks with temperatures bumping 100 degrees on several days.  Tomorrow, it look like it will be a red flag warning for high temperatures, low humidity, and most important high winds up to 30 mph.  Tomorrow, would be a good day for the National Weather Service to miss their forecast!!

The fire started as a structure fire in Mills Canyon, which is just south of the Entiat River.  The fire spread from the structure into the adjacent wildlands.  The report of the fire was received at 11:54 am.  The picture above is taken from the bottom of Burch Mountain Rd. in Wenatchee.  This picture was taken at 4:31 pm.

At the time the estimated acreage was 2,000.  This photo is taken 13 miles from the fire.  Reports are that there was a significant ash fall from the column.  I heard at least one helicopter flying the fire.

This picture has a slightly different perspective.  As you can see in the picture the winds are pushing the fire in a south-east direction.  This picture was taken at 4:52 pm.

Chelan County has closed the upper portion of the Burch Mountain Road.  The following picture was taken at 5.29 pm.  One air tanker is now on the fire, along with two helicopters, 15 engines and 250 firefighter according to the Forest Service at 3:15 pm.  A Incident Mangement Team is taking over the fire management duties tomorrow.  The Chelan County Sheriff has ordered evacuations in the vicinity of the fire.

Large fires starting in Mills Canyon area in previous years have ran all the way into the outskirts of Wenatchee.  This happened in 1970, 1988, and most recently in 2010-Swakane Fire.

It should be a very interesting day tomorrow.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Skyline Fire, July 6, 2014, Wenatchee, Washington

Skyline Fire, July 6, 2014, Wenatchee, Washington

These are my personal photos and are copyrighted.  Permission must be granted before use.  I am NOT working on this fire.

This blog posting is the progression of the Skyline Fire as viewed from Burch Mountain looking across the Wenatchee Valley.  I first noticed the fire when awoken by our cat.  It seems he fell off the "gangplank" that leads to the bedroom deck.  He is an old cat.

Without my glasses on, I saw some new "lights" across the valley and pretty quickly knew what it meant.

The official start of the fire was at 02:15 am.  My first picture was at 02:34 am. You can see how quickly a fire moves in light fuels.

This second photo is eight minutes later at 02:42 am.  I did change exposures slightly between the two photos.  If you look closely between the two photos you can see how quickly the fire is moving.

This photo is 03:26 am.  Notice the hot spot at the upper end of the picture.

The photo was taken at 04:16 am.  At this point the fire is starting to move west in a more aggressive manner.  When the fire started there were significant winds down valley.  I suspect at this point the down valley winds were starting to abate.

This photo is just 14 minutes later.  Dawn is breaking.

The photo at 05:30.

This is at 06:46 am.  

At 08:25 am.  At this point the first acreage estimate was announced at 400 acres.  The Chelan County #1 helicopter was flying the fire at this point.

At 09:29 am.  At the left side of the picture there is a dense, while streak.  That is the Chelan County #1 helicopter dropping water.

At 11:06 am.  Update acreage to between 300 and 400 acres.  There are two DNR helicopters working the fire.  The Incident Commander sounded optimistic on the radio interview.  Higher westerly winds predicted for around 5:00 pm tonight.  If lines hold through that it should be looking fairly well.

The Incident Commander did mention that fires started by fireworks in Douglas County limited the number of personnel available immediately for this fire.

Good job, catching this fire quickly.  I started the photo sequence and left "plenty" of room for it to grow on the photo's.  Good thing, I did not need it!!!!

More photo's will be posted on an hourly basis.  As noted all photo's copyrighted and can be used only with permission.