Incident Command Press Release:
Firefighting crews worked yesterday trying hard to complete the fire line along the western perimeter of the Colockum Tarps Fire. They did not complete it. Fire continues to burn in the steep, timbered draws along the western flank of the fire, requiring the burning out of fuels inside of the remaining three miles of fire line construction.
Fire managers say crews will continue working today and for 3-4 more days to complete the fire line in this last segment. The assignment requires reduction of heavy fuels inside the line within steep, forested draws along the top of ragged fire perimeter that encompasses the deep, timbered draws. Firefighters will be burning out fuels in the steep draws today and tomorrow in the Fire's west flank divisions – Divisions C and D – using both ground and aerial ignition tactics.
Burn-out operations, including smoke and smoke columns may be visible from points throughout the Kittitas Valley for the next several days. Brian Gales, incident commander of the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team said today that the public should be aware that firefighters are using "fire to fight fire" and that the tactics being used are controlled and being executed to reduce the threat of spread of the fire to the west.
Once completed, the line will be reinforced and strengthened to keep the fire from moving westward from the steep draws to the Columbia River. The 80,400-acre fire is now 50 percent contained. Two strike teams of engines will continue patrolling and mopping up during night shifts tonight.
Because of increasing temperatures and concern about the potential spread of the fire outside fire lines, evacuation levels for Kittitas County will remain in effect. Evacuation status levels remain unchanged for the area west of the Fire in Kittitas County where residents from approximately 45 structures are still evacuated. The Level 2 Evacuation Notification affecting the Colockum Road, Tarpiscan Road, Kingsbury Road vicinity in Chelan County was reduced to Level 1 at noon yesterday. The Colockum Road is still closed in Kittitas County.
Firefighters have begun rehabilitating hand and dozer-created fire lines along the northern-most perimeter and several areas within the South Branch. Nearly 30 miles of fire line has been constructed along the north and west flanks of the fire. Firefighters are mopping up the fire for the distance needed to provide containment inside all fire lines and 500 feet around structures.
Slight winds out of the northwest most of Thursday and Friday kept the fire from moving out of the draws along the western flank of the fire. Sawyers and fallers worked to drop mistletoe-infected trees, snags and other large fuels to reduce the threat of them catching fire and spotting outside the lines. Trees have been torching at night in the draws.
High relative humidity, cooler temperatures, and cloud cover during the past two days have kept fire activity at a minimum, however with increasing temperatures predicted this week, the threat of increasing fire behavior and it escaping fire lines remains. Intermittent thunderstorms late Friday and this morning did not deliver much-needed moisture to the fire area. Light rains have not penetrated forest canopies and have not improved large forest fuel moisture recovery. Reconnaissance flights are still being made daily to patrol the entire fire area and locate flames and smoking fuels.
Washington State-mobilized resources are now being demobilized, with about 85 firefighters – primarily engine crews – to begin returning to their home units today. Remaining firefighters will continue to mop up, strengthen and secure fire lines, and patrol the fire. Most air support resources are now devoted to initial attack on new fire starts caused by lightning throughout the area, but are also available to ground crews if needed. Two strike teams of engines will continue patrolling and mopping up during night shift tonight.
A structure protection group is continuing to monitor and mop up around approximately 35 residences in the area surrounding Parke Creek Road. The residences were saved from burning by helicopter water and retardant drops followed by intensive ground effort late Wednesday.
The Colockum Tarps Fire has been burning since Saturday, July 27, 2013, through dry grass, sagebrush and sparse timber growing in steep drainages along the western shore of the Columbia River, 11 miles southwest of Wenatchee, Washington. The fire has spread quickly. On July 31, the push from easterly winds moved it toward sparsely populated areas along the Parke, Caribou and Colockum Roads in Kittitas County where a Level 3 evacuation notice was issued.
Fire Facts – Friday, August 3, 2013 – 0900 HOURS
Fire Size: approximately 80,400 acres Percent Contained: 50%
Evacuations: In effect in Kittitas and Chelan Counties County. There are numerous road closures in the Fire vicinity. The Red Cross Shelter is located at Mercer Creek Church, 1407 North E Street, Ellensburg, Wash. An animal shelter is available at the Kittitas Valley Event Center. For more information contact the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center 509 933-8305.
Fuels: Grass, brush, with timber at the higher elevations
Air Resources: One light, one medium, and two heavy helicopters.
Crews: 4 Type I crews; 6 Type II Crews
Engines: 89 Dozers: 8 Water Tenders: 17
Total Personnel: Approx. 751
Cost to Date: $4.3 million