Cascade Creek Fire now 40 percent contained
Contributed: Darlisa Black, www.starlisa.net
FIRE UNDER THE STARS The Cascade Creek Fire, eight miles north of Mt. Adams, lights up the sky in this picture taken last week.
Firefighters Monday constructed two miles of contingency fire line at the southwest end of Stagman Canyon to prevent the fire that has been burning in the north end of the Canyon from leaving the steep, forested canyon. The fire is being pushed southward by cold, terrain-driven winds during the night that flow down the western flank of Mount Adams. The firefighters will continue to strengthen and secure fire lines today.
Operations Section chief Mark Sigrist said firefighters will work Monday to tie the fire line into Cascade Creek and widen the fire line along a road corridor by falling trees and clearing the adjacent ground of fuels. Sigrist said several falling bosses are providing essential direction and observing the tree falling and chipping operations.
Taking advantage of a short, three-hour burning window, firefighters also burned out an area inside the fire perimeter yesterday. Fire behavior specialist Dean Warner said today the moist, marine air mass that pushes in from the Pacific Ocean is kept at lower elevations because of drier air aloft. “This weather pattern raises the relative humidity during the morning and early afternoon so introduced fire cannot consume all of the fuels,” he explained.
“When the humidity drops around 2 p.m ., we get a brief chance to burn-out fuels. The window of opportunity closes around 5 p.m. as the sun sets.”
According to Warner, firefighters will get more of a chance later this week to complete critical burnout operations as winds change direction and come from the east. “Things will get a lot drier out there on Wednesday and Thursday as temperatures increase and relative humidity drops, allowing for good, thorough burning,” he said.
More than 450 firefighters are now fighting the 13,727-acre Cascade Creek Fire burning in heavy timber along the west flank of Mount Adams, eight miles north of Trout Lake. The major hazards faced by the firefighters, according to Sigrist, are the many dead and burned snags throughout the area.
Command of the fire was assumed at 6 a.m. Monday by Larry Nickey, incident commander for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team 4.
The fire lines along the southern and eastern perimeter of the fire area are now secure. Several pockets of fuels continue to smolder in the Aiken Lava Bed. Nearly 27 miles of fire hose have been lain throughout the fire as firefighters use water to mop up inside established fire lines along the southern perimeter. The northern and northeastern perimeters of the fire are at the timberline of Mount Adams where, at 6,200 feet, there are few or no forest fuels.
Firefighters have begun to mop up along the south perimeter. The highest priority continues to be, according to Nickey, keeping the fire from moving east onto the Yakama Nation, state and private lands or to contiguous forestlands northeast of the Mountain.
Most of the fire is burning in mixed forests types— primarily in subalpine fir with Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, and Pacific silver fir, many of which are dead or dying from spruce budworm, bark beetles, and other insect infestations. The forests contain large, down and standing fuels that are extremely dry and burn with intensity. The fire is 40 percent contained.
Today, operations personnel are scouting Forest Road 070 as a potential contingency line along the west perimeter of the Fire. Here, firefighters may begin burning out within two days.
Resource specialists from the Yakama Nation, USDA Forest Service and Washington Department of Natural Resources assessed the work done inside the fire are and along the perimeter, and are presently compiling their findings and formulating recommendations for rehabilitation for Fire officials today. Three engines will patrol and monitor nighttime movement of the fire tonight.
Sixteen ground crews, supported by engines and water tenders, are focusing their efforts along the western perimeter of the fire today, burning out fuels, cutting down dangerous snags and mopping up hot spots.
The main objective of fire suppression operations this week, Sigrist said, is to contain the fire as safely and quickly as possible before it has a chance to escape fire lines.