Okanogan Complex continues to expand, pushed by strong winds

(UPDATED at 4 p.m. PT, August 22, 2015)

Helicopters at Okanogan Complex of Fires
The arrival of the predicted dry cold front on August 21st, 2015 brought strong winds to the Okanogan Complex of fires and drove part of the blaze into an area near the Okanogan airport where a K-Max helicopter performed bucket work in an area near one of the Washington DNR UH-1 Hueys. Two of the DNR ships joined the K-Max and a civilian Blackhawk in the engagement. Photo by Tom Story.

The Okanogan Complex of fires was very active again on Friday as a cold front with strong winds passed through the area. According Incident Commander Todd Pechota (via Joe O’Sullivan) more than 227,000 acres have burned since the fires started on August 15. Additional evacuation orders were issued as the portion of the fire west of Okanogan spread south and approached and in at least one area crossed Highway 20, which is closed.

Map Okanogan Fire
Map of the Okanogan Complex of Fires. The fire perimeters shown were mapped at 9 p.m. on August 21. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite during the 12 hours before 2:22 a.m. on Aug 22, 2015. (click to enlarge)
Washington UH-1 Huey Okanogan Complex of fires
A Washington DNR UH-1 Huey at the Okanogan airport takes off to engage the Okanogan Complex of Fires with some bucket work. Photo by Tom Story.

On Friday, President Obama signed an emergency declaration, ordering federal aid to assist in battling Washington state’s wildfires. The declaration allows FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts in Asotin, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Klickitat, Okanogan, Pend Orielle, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, and Yakima counties. It also brings aid to the Colville, Spokane, Kalispel, and Yakima tribes.

For the first time, volunteers are being asked to fight the fires. More than 3,000 people have called and emailed in response to the state’s request for volunteer help with wildfires.

Dino sent us this link to four webcams in the Methow Valley between Twisp and Winthrop, Washington. He said they refresh once an hour. When I checked them Saturday afternoon they were shrouded in smoke.

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(UPDATE at 9:47 a.m. PT, August 21, 2015)

Map Okanogan Fire
Map showing heat detected on the Okanogan Fire by a satellite at 3 a.m. PT August 21, 2015.

The Okanogan Complex of Fires consumed another 40,000 acres of vegetation on Thursday and now covers 124,083 acres, crossing the 100,000-acre threshold to obtain megafire status.

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(Originally published at 2:58 p.m. PT, August 20, 2015)

map Okanogan Complex
The red line was the fire perimeter of the Okanogan Complex at 11 p.m. PT August 19, 2015. The white line is from about 24 hours before. (click to enlarge)

The Okanagan Complex, comprised of 11 fires, some of which grew together, quadrupled in size on Wednesday. It added 60,282 acres and as of 11 p.m. Wednesday night it was 83,441 acres and still growing rapidly (see map above). The Twisp River Fire, on which three firefighters were killed Wednesday, was added to the Complex this morning. A Type 1 incident management team will inbrief on Thursday.

The fire is near Omak, Riverside, and Okanagan in north-central Washington.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning through Friday (see map below) for continued warm temperatures, low humidities and strong north winds on Friday that could reach 50 mph — possibly downing power lines that could start new fires.

wildfireRed Flag Warnings, August 20, 2015

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

3 thoughts on “Okanogan Complex continues to expand, pushed by strong winds”

  1. Thank you for your synthesis and update of Okanogan fire. I have been searching around the web and this is the best I have come across so far. Posted link to my facebook page. There is a lot of mis-information out there…lav

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