closed due to fires
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Crews battling wildfire close part of Ahtanum Forest
By DAN CATCHPOLE
State officials have closed part of Ahtanum State Forest to help fight a wildfire burning in a closed section of the Yakama reservation about 15 miles northwest of White Swan.
Steep terrain is hampering firefighters efforts to contain the blaze, said Sarah Foster, a spokeswoman for the state fire management team that took over the 331-acre fire early Wednesday.
The team’s staging camp is in the closed state forest land, which covers Ahtanum Meadows, Ahtanum Campground, Whites Ridge Trailhead and Middle Fork Road.
The closures, which were enacted by the state Department of Natural Resources, are expected to last through the weekend, Foster said.
Other parts of the state forest, including South Fork Road, Nasty Creek Road, North Fork Road and Jackass Road, are still open to the public.
Lightning sparked the fire Sunday. About 200 firefighters and support people are working to contain the flames, which are burning in lodge pole pine trees in the Diamond Butte area. There are no structures in the area.
The fire’s commanders want to keep the flames from reaching forested land with heavy infestation of mountain pine beetles. The insects’ activity kill trees, which creates ready fuel for wildfire, Foster said. "Those dead trees burn really rapidly."
Calm weather conditions are expected until Friday, when a cool front will bring lower temperatures and higher winds, she said.
Helicopters and nine hand crews worked Wednesday to make progress on the fire. The helicopters are flying out of an area a couple miles outside Tampico.
As many as 350 firefigthers could be called in to corral the fire, she said.
Some of them could come from the Taylor Bridge Fire, where the incident commanders are starting to reduce the number of crews.
In Washington, firefighters can work 14 days on a fire, then have to take 24 hours off before going back out.
Crews on the Taylor Bridge Fire are mopping most of the fire’s 23,450-acre footprint.
They are still fighting active flames in steep terrain in the fire’s northwest corner. The area’s steep terrain and strong wind have hampered their work, Mick Mueller, a spokesman with the fire management team, said Tuesday.
Due to those complications, fire officials had to push back the target date for 100 percent containment from Tuesday to Friday.
Containment doesn’t mean the fire is out completely, though, Mueller said.
The Taylor Bridge Fire will continue to smolder in slow-burning fuel like tree roots and logs, he said.
patrol the area to put out any hot spots before they become problems for months to come, Mueller said.
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