September 28, 2012 0900 Update
Incident: Cascade Creek Wildfire
Retardant drops, helitac and ground crews suppress spot fires in northeast corner of Fire
Firefighting focus is on Cascade Creek's western perimeter where crews are strengthening 'contingency' fire line from FR 070 to FR 23
Trout Lake, Wash., Yesterday, firefighters at the Cascade Creek Fire focused most of their work on widening and clearing fuels from the fire line constructed during the past three days along Forest Roads (FRs) 070, 101, 531, 511, 521 and 520. The continuous, 13-mile long fire line was tied into FR 23 yesterday, and hand crews began clearing snags, brushing, and removing ground fuels from the east side of the highway. FR 23 is a primary route between the towns of Trout Lake and Randall, Wash.
The fire line is serving as a contingency line that if necessary will be used to hold back the Fire should it burn downhill to the White Salmon River and further westward from its present location. The 15,565-acre fire is burning approximately two miles east of FR 23. It is 50 percent contained.
A great deal of progress was made to contain the fire along the entire eastern and southern boundaries this week and firefighters there have extinguished nearly all fire within 75 feet of the Fire's perimeter from the Aiken Lava Bed to Cascade Creek. Several islands of unburned fuel were burned out late yesterday near FR 050.
A small spot fire burning in the northernmost section of the Lava Bed was observed yesterday afternoon. A four-person helitack crew was delivered to the site and retardant was dropped on the fire. Today, a 20-person hand crew will finish mopping it up.
Smoke continues to plague firefighters and local citizens as it is locked into valleys during the night and morning by cold-air inversions. Smoke is being monitored at a station (Station #22) in Trout Lake and the amounts of particulates are published daily for the area near the Fire http://tinyurl.com/9cuwpwp . Convert to local time by subtracting 8 hours from the time signatures on the website's data and graphs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed an Air Quality Index to provide easy to understand information on local air quality and whether air pollution levels pose a health concern. http://tinyurl.com/c76kk7t . Where smoke is particularly heavy, especially in the areas south of the Fire, everyone should avoid any outdoor exertion, and people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors. Usually, the smoke has been dispersing by noon.
The fire burning north of Stagman Canyon area has burned from high-elevation stands of subalpine fir into mixed fir forest types where the trees are larger in size with fewer branches. There are also fewer large ground fuels in these stands. The change in fuel type along with calm winds is slowing the growth of the fire.
According to Dean Warner, fire behavior specialist, the fire is burning about an eighth of a mile per day as it backs downhill toward the White Salmon River. "Because of the sparse ground fuels, the fire isn't building up enough heat to torch the crowns of the trees and create embers that can spread ahead of the fire," he said. "The light winds aren't carrying the fire very far, and the inversion is keeping humidity high at ground level," he said.
Operations specialists are hoping the fire remains in a slow-growth pattern until the fire season-ending rain will stop the fire completely.
At most concern today for firefighters are the large numbers of hazardous shallow-rooted, decayed grand fir trees that are located in the unburned forest. Firefighters mopping up and completing rehabilitation activities in the area are paying special attention to the dangers overhead.
Several crews, equipment and aircraft are being demobilized from the fire as the firefighters come closer to accomplishing their mission of containing the fire. Truckloads of fire hose that once stretched for miles along the Aiken Lava Bed to the northeast corner of the fire were carried back to the Cascade Creek Fire Incident Command Post yesterday to be dried and rewound for storage.
Larry Nickey, incident commander for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team, is impressed with the progress that has been made in the past three weeks. "I appreciate the hard, methodical work of the firefighters that has brought us very close to containing this fire," Nickey said. "Everyone has done a good job safely carrying out the many daily tasks that will add up to containing this fire, and for that I am extremely thankful," he said.
Fire Facts - Friday, September 28, 2012 - 0900 HOURS
Fire Size: 15,565 acres
Percent Contained: 50%
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
Firefighting Crews: 15
Water Tenders: 14
Total Personnel: 557
Total Estimated Cost to Date: $10,073,986