September 24th 9 AM Update
Incident: Cascade Creek Wildfire
Dangerous dead and burned snags pose a difficult "watch-out" situation for firefighters
After making a narrow, two-mile run Saturday along the west flank of Mount Adams, the Cascade Creek Fire spreads west from the Volcano
Trout Lake, Wash., More than four hundred firefighters on the ground, in engines, and in the air are battling the 13,727-acre Cascade Creek Fire burning in heavy timber along the west flank of Mount Adams, eight miles north of Trout Lake, Wash. The major hazards faced by the firefighters, according to fire operations specialists, are the many dead and burned snags that are toppling over without warning throughout the fire area.
Command of the Fire will be transferred at 6 a.m. Monday, September 24, 2012 to the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #4 under the leadership of Larry Nickey, incident commander. The Fire has been managed since its start two weeks ago by Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #3, under the command of Dave LaFave, incident commander for that out-going team.
On the afternoon of Thursday, September 20, the fire jumped the Salt Creek Drainage in the Northwest corner of the Fire and took a two-mile run along the western flank of the Mountain to Sheep Lake. LaFave and local Forest Service officials decided to continue managing the fire with a Type II incident management team, due to this increased fire activity. Since that time, the fire circled back to the south, driven by northerly winds and burning into the northern portion of the steep and inaccessible Stagman Canyon.
To date, LaFave and his management team have successfully secured the southern and eastern flanks of the fire, burning out fuels north of Forest Road 20. The fire on these flanks is now nearly contained. Most of the eastern flank is comprised of the Aiken Lava Bed, wherein fine fuels are smoldering in a few places, deep within the rocks. Hose lays are in place to begin extinguishing those 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.
For two days, firefighters have tried to burn out fuels in an area along the southwest perimeter of the Fire, but higher relative humidity levels have not allowed for the complete consumption of ground fuels. Fire officials are continuing to assess the conditions of fuels here and may use aerial ignition (dropping fuel-injected "ping-pong" balls from a helicopter) to burn fuels in front of the main fire front and prevent further wildfire spread to the southwest.
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 and other insect infestations. The forests contain large, down and standing fuels that are extremely dry and burn with intensity. The fire has spread as embers light ground fuels and heat from the ground fire ignites the dead and dying branches and crowns. Prevailing winds push the fire, spotting by embers that drop to the ground ahead of the fire ... starting the cycle again. Terrain-driven winds are pushing the fire downhill along the slopes of Mount Adams.
Columns of smoke and heat from torching trees could be seen west of Horseshoe Meadow yesterday. The fire is 40 percent contained.
Today, operations specialists are scouting out the Forest Road 70 as a potential contingency line along the west perimeter of the Fire. Here, firefighters may begin burning out within two days.
Firefighting crews that have been working to restrain growth of the fire during night shifts will be now be reassigned to areas that are actively burning during the day. The fire is most active where air inversions at low elevations keep warm air close to the ground. Patrols will continue to monitor and report nighttime movement of the fire.
Although air resources assigned to the Fire are available for use, the focus today is to use ground crews, including three Type I hotshot crews, to burn out fuels, cut down dangerous snags and mop up hot spots.
According to Nickey, his most important priority is the safety of the firefighters and public. "We will continue to make progress on this fire safely," he said, " and that may take a week or so, but we will keep working the edges until we have this fire contained in a box and can then confidently turn it back to the local officials for observation until a season-ending rainfall."
Fire Facts - Monday, September 24, 2012 - 0900 HOURS
Fire Size: 13,727 acres
Percent Contained: 40%
Fuels: Heavy, bug-killed timber, litter and understory
Expected Containment: Not determined
Air Resources: Two of each of the following: Light, medium and heavy helicopters; two air attack platforms
Water Tenders: 14
Total Personnel: 611
Total Estimated Cost to Date: $7,172,000