Barker Canyon Complex Update Sept. 12, 2012
Incident: Barker Canyon Complex Wildfire
Calm winds, cool night temps aid in firefighter success "corralling" the Barker Canyon Complex
Firefighting night crews burn out fuels at head of Barker Canyon Complex, preventing its northeast spread to Columbia River
Electric City, Wash., Nearly 85 firefighters worked until 11 p.m. last night, burning out the sage and grass ahead of the eastward-moving path of the North Branch of the Barker Canyon Complex, preventing the fire from reaching the Columbia River. The burnout, according to fire operations specialists, helped to stop the fire from burning into the steep, timbered canyons along the river and from joining with the South Branch of the Complex.
Mark Sigrist, operations section chief for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #4 said today, "Excellent work done by firefighters yesterday and last night helped stop the further spread of the fire which threatened agricultural, natural and cultural resources along the River."
New field measurements and accurate GIS mapping increased the fire size to 78,165 acres, more than doubling original estimates. The fire is approximately 20 percent contained.
State Highway 174 was opened today by the Douglas County Sheriff. The Highway was closed yesterday, due to fire activity near and south of Leahy Junction. A Level 2 evacuation order for the fire area is still in effect today for the entire fire area.
Today, the objectives for firefighters are to secure all fire lines and hold the fire inside those lines.
Yesterday, a single-engine air tanker (SEAT) capable of delivering up to 800 gallons per load to the fire, and Type I helicopter were used to help cool down hot spots burning in both branches of the Complex. Water drops helped cool down fuels burning along the steep northwest perimeter of the South Branch, five miles west of Elmer City, Wash. The fire also burned 300 acres west of containment lines in the northwest corner of the North Branch and was contained in a green agricultural field.
Weather forecasts predict calm winds today and a warming trend with temperatures to 75 degrees. The dry, cured fuels in the Complex are showing very weak moisture recovery, even with the cold evening temperatures. No rain is predicted for the next week, but another dry, cold front is anticipated for Friday, bringing windy conditions again. In preparation for the increasing temperatures and winds, firefighters are working hard to strengthen fire lines, locate and extinguish hot spots, and mop up the fire.
Firefighters are mopping up 500 feet around all structures in the Complex.
The Complex was started by lightning Saturday night, September 8, creating two fires. The Leahy Fire, now the North Branch of the Complex, started 13 miles northwest of Electric City. The Barker Canyon Fire, now the South Branch, burned along the northern shore of Banks Lake and threatened the town of Coulee Dam (population 1,107). The fires were combined into one complex on Monday night.
No injuries have been reported for the Complex. The Douglas County fire marshal inspected the fire area for burned structures yesterday, finding 3 houses and 9 outbuildings that were destroyed in the North Branch of the fire.
According to Larry Nickey, incident commander for the Washington Interagency Incident Management Team (WIIMT) #4, firefighters are to be commended for their hard, dedicated work this week. "I am very happy with the progress made to stop this fire and the professionalism that was shown by all fire personnel," he said. "I want to congratulate everyone for their diligent work which was accomplished with no reported injuries or accidents," he added.
Fire Facts - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 0900 HOURS
Fire Size: South Branch (Barker Canyon) 17,365 Acres; North Branch (Leahy) 60,800 Acres
- Total Acreage: 78,165
Evacuations: Level II Evacuation Order in effect today
Percent Contained: 20%
Fuels: Sparse timber, grass/understory/ bitterbrush, sage, slash, snags and down fuels in draws/canyons
Expected Containment: Not determined
Air Resources: SEAT plane; Type I helicopter
Water Tenders: 10
Total Personnel: 186
Total Estimated Cost to Date: $650,000