Rain and snow affect some fires in the Northwest — but not all

Wildfires are still active in California, Oregon, Washington, and northwest Montana. Red Flag Warning for northern Nevada.

Above: Indigo Fire in southwest Oregon, September 17, 2017. It is being managed by the East Zone of the Chetco Bar Fire. Inciweb.

(Originally published at 1 a.m. MDT September 18, 2017)

The precipitation that hit areas in the northern Rockies last week has slowed or in some cases temporarily halted, perhaps, the spread of some of the wildfires, many of which had been burning for more than a month. Higher elevations in portions of western Montana received snow, a significant amount in a few areas.

Most of Montana and eastern Idaho had over half an inch of precipitation, but extreme northwest Montana, northwest California, northern Idaho, and most of Oregon and Washington received very little.

Estimated precipitation received for the 7-day period ending Sunday Evening, September 17, 2017.

For example, some evacuations are still in effect for the West Fork Fire in northwest Montana north of Libby. But in the photo below firefighters on the Blacktail Fire northeast of Bozeman look like they are on a winter snow adventure.

Blacktail fire snow Montana
Firefighters on the Blacktail Fire, 48 miles northeast of Bozeman. Photo by Jade Martin.

Many of the wildfires in extreme northwest California and the Cascades of Oregon and Washington are still active. The satellite photo of that area is the most recent we could find that was at least partially free of clouds. On Friday smoke plumes were still very visible from hundreds of miles overhead.

satellite photo fires northwest united states
Satellite photo of the northwest United States, September 15, 2017. The red dots represent heat that the satellite was able to detect where the clouds were not too thick. NASA.

Continue reading “Rain and snow affect some fires in the Northwest — but not all”

Wildfires persist in the Cascades and Northern Rockies

Today there are 71 large uncontained wildfires in the United States.

Above: the red and orange dots on the map represent heat on wildfires detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 7:30 a.m. MDT September 11, 2017. Heat found before that is not shown.

(Originally published at 7:45 a.m. MDT September 11, 2017)

In spite of the hurricanes impacting the southeast United States, the wildfires in the Cascade Range and the Northern Rockies persevere in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.

Off and on over the last week they have slowed as clouds and even some scattered very light showers passed over the areas, but the National Interagency Fire Center reported today there are 71 active large fires, 32 that are being suppressed and 39 that are being suppressed only where needed to protect property.

So far this year 8.2 million acres have burned in the United States, which is 46 percent higher than the 5.6 million average to this date.

Red Flag Warning Northwest Montana
Red Flag Warning for Northwest Montana, September 11, 2017. There is a Fire Weather Watch due to “abundant lightning on dry fuels” predicted Tuesday afternoon for areas in northern California and south-central Oregon.

The weather for Monday and Tuesday could be conducive to fire growth, especially in Northwest Montana where a Red Flag Warning is in effect Monday. But Wednesday through Saturday will bring a chance of rain to Idaho and Western Montana, while the forecast for Northern California, Oregon, and Washington looks dry this week.

Weather forecast Wednesday September 13
Weather forecast for Wednesday September 13, 2017. Weather.com

Clouds and high humidity affect Eagle Creek fire in Columbia River Gorge

Mapping flights the last two days were cancelled due to low clouds.

helicopter eagle creek fire columbia river
A helicopter carries water from the Columbia River to the Eagle Creek Fire September 8, 2017. Inciweb photo.

The growth of the Eagle Creek wildfire burning along the Columbia River in northern Oregon 11 miles northeast of Gresham has slowed during the last two days due to cooler and more humid weather. On Friday the relative humidity at Cascade Locks never got below 64 percent. A couple of weather stations just south of the fire recorded small amounts of rain early Saturday morning.

The forecast for calls for a 17 to 30 percent chance of showers through Saturday night, but warmer and drier conditions will prevail Sunday through Tuesday.

Strong winds out of the west at 15 gusting to 25 mph are expected Saturday, but the humidity will remain above 90 percent.

The information below is from the Incident Management Team at about 11 a.m. PDT September 9:

Winds shifted Friday, blowing predominantly upriver out of the west and increasing fire activity to the east. Two new Level 1 (Ready) Evacuation Notices were issued by the Hood River Sheriff’s Department for portions of Hood River County on Friday afternoon.

Firefighters performed a strategic burnout near Cascade Locks to protected endangered residential and commercial structures. They continued to work along Interstate 84 and Hwy 30 using heavy equipment to strengthen firelines and protect structures, avoiding sensitive areas like fish hatcheries. Helicopters were dipping water out of the Columbia River to assist firefighters working south of the Interstate. Helicopters also provided assistance to crews working to contain the Archer Fire in Washington. Overnight, Oregon State Fire Marshall (OSFM) structure protection crews continued to mop up along I-84 and in Corbett while burnout operations were held on the east end. Due to increased moisture in the air and no substantial wind, the fire perimeter remained mostly unchanged overnight.

Weather conditions are expected to be favorable for firefighting activities today with lower temperatures, higher humidity and lighter winds. Activities today will emphasize protecting structures along Interstate 84 and Hwy 30.

OSFM crews will continue to support burnout operations. They will be completing patrols to extinguish hot spots to the east and maintain containment lines in Cascade Locks. All aircraft are available for use today. Firefighters will be scouting on the eastern side of the fire in Hood River County for natural barriers like roads and trails to create a line of defense for homes the in that area. Preparations are underway for a strategic burnout to protect the community of Corbett on the fire’s western edge, however that burnout may be delayed due to the moist conditions expected today. All firefighting efforts are aimed at restoring normal activities along the Columbia River and the Interstate 84/Hwy 30 corridor.

While today’s weather is giving firefighters a bit of breathing room, conditions in upcoming days will revert to drier, windier conditions. As always firefighter and public safety are the primary objective while fighting the Eagle Creek Fire.

Resources Assigned: 4 Type 1 (Hotshot) crews, 11 Type 2 crews and 5 Type 2 Initial Attack Crews; 104 Engines; 12 helicopters; 987 Personnel

Satellite detects heat from wildfires, September 7

(Originally published at 6:36 p.m. MDT September 7, 2017.)

Large wildfires Washington Oregon northern California
Large wildfires currently active in Washington, Oregon, and northern California. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.

These maps show heat that was detected by a satellite on wildfires in the northwestern United States during the 24-hour period ending at 6 p.m. Thursday September 7, 2017. We did not include heat from the 6 days previous to the last 24 hours.

If there was heat found, it means the fires are still active, however some of it could be from proactive burning by firefighters to secure the area between firelines and the edge of the fires.

map wildfires idaho montana
Large wildfires currently active in Montana and Idaho. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 6 p.m. MDT September 7.

Eagle Creek Fire in Columbia River Gorge slows, but still adds over 2,000 acres

The fire has burned 33,382 acres, which includes a 209-acre spot fire across the Columbia River in Washington.

On the map above, the red line was the perimeter of the Eagle Creek Fire at 2:15 a.m. PDT September 7, 2017. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

(Originally published at 9:06 am PDT September 7, 2017)

The Eagle Creek Fire that is believed to have been started by a teenager playing with fireworks, continued to spread Wednesday but more slowly than in previous days, adding another 2,453 acres mostly on the south and northeast sides. The spot fire across the Columbia River in Washington has expanded to 209 acres.

The main fire is 11 miles east of Gresham.

Interstate 84 is still closed. The Oregon Department of Transportation said Wednesday that there are nearly 2,000 trees that are in danger of falling into the highway.

Snow plows are being used to push fallen trees off the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is also closed “for an undetermined amount of time”, the DOT said.

The weather forecast indicates that the air quality should improve in the Portland area over the next few days. The prediction is for a “moderate” Air Quality Index for Thursday and Friday of this week. The forecast also calls for a chance of rain off and on over the next couple of days.

Air Quality Index Oregon Washington
Air Quality Index for Oregon and Washington 7 a.m. PDT, September 7, 2017.
map Eagle Creek fire
3-D map of the Eagle Creek Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2:15 a.m. PDT September 7, 2017. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Eagle Creek fire burns structures and forces evacuations along the Columbia River Gorge

Above: 3-D map of the Eagle Creek Fire looking southeast, showing the perimeter at 7:30 p.m. PDT September 5, 2017.

(Originally published at 12:22 p.m. PDT, September 6, 2017)

The Eagle Creek Fire that has been burning since September 2 along the Columbia River Gorge just west of Cascade Locks on the Washington/Oregon border has merged with the nearby Indian Creek Fire, which together have blackened 30,929 acres. The blaze is about 10 miles east of the Portland suburbs.

Most of the fire is on the south side of the river in Oregon, but it has jumped across the river into Washington near Archer Mountain.

Six structures have burned and there is a report that at least one of them is a residence, with the others being outbuildings.

Eagle Creek Fire
Firefighters protect the Multnomah Lodge at the Eagle Creek Fire, September 5, 2017. Inciweb.

Several communities are under evacuation orders and a shelter has been established at Mt. Hood Community College, at 3691 NE 17th Drive, Gresham, OR. For information regarding evacuations in Skamania County, contact the Skamania County Emergency Operations Center at 509-427-8076.

Firefighters will be conducting burnout operations on September 6th from Bridge of the Gods to Bonneville Dam. There will be large plumes of smoke visible during the day.

 map Eagle Creek Fire
Map of the Eagle Creek Fire showing the perimeter at 7:30 p.m. PDT September 5, 2017.

Willamette Week reported that a Portland resident saw a teenage boy using fireworks that may have started the fire. On September 5 the Oregon State Police announced that a 15-year old boy from Vancouver, Washington is a suspect.

Continue reading “Eagle Creek fire burns structures and forces evacuations along the Columbia River Gorge”