Cold Creek Fire burns over 40,000 acres in Washington

It is 31 miles east of Yakima

Cold Creek Fire
The Cold Creek Fire on the Hanford Reach National Monument. Photo by Franklin County Fire District 3.

A human-caused wildfire in south/central Washington has burned 41,920 acres 31 miles east of Yakima (see the map below). The fire has spread onto a portion of the Hanford Nuclear site that is closed to visitors but does not pose a danger to the public, according to the Washington state Department of Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program — the agency responsible for oversight of federal environmental cleanup at the site.

The fire began Thursday morning as two fires burned together, and by 6 p.m. had blackened 8,000 acres.

Cold Creek Fire
A portion of the 41,000 acres that burned in the Cold Creek Fire. Photo by Washington Dept. of Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program.

By Saturday afternoon the spread of the fire had slowed considerably and firefighters expect to have it contained by Sunday.

The Cold Creek Fire is the largest in Washington so far this year. The next largest was the 243 Command Fire that burned 20,380 acres 13 miles west of Royal City.

Map of the Cold Creek Fire
Map of the Cold Creek Fire at 2 p.m. PDT July 19, 2019, by David Winter. Click to enlarge.

Fire train assists firefighters in Washington

BNSF fire train
BNSF fire train. Screenshot from KEPR video.

On Thursday a fire train that probably carried nearly 30,000 gallons of water assisted firefighters battling a wildfire along railroad tracks south of Finely, Washington.

Here is a video from KEPR in which a reporter interviews firefighters to get their reaction to this train.

(If the embedded video above does not load, you can view it at the KEPR website.)

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway has built a number of these firefighting trains.

BNSF fire train
A single car from a BNSF fire train. Each of the individual tanks hold about 3,250 gallons, for a total of 9,750 gallons on the car, plus another 500 gallons of AFFF foam concentrate.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Railway Age about the BNSF fire trains:

…The Spokane fire train utilizes bulkhead flatcars that have been converted to carry three to four modular tanks, each carrying roughly 3,250 gallons of water. Swiveling water/foam cannons are mounted on elevated platforms at both ends of the train’s center car, which also carries a 500-gallon tank of aqueous firefighting foam. BNSF says, “We can reach about 300 feet up an embankment.” The train also includes a caboose that serves as a shelter and command center and houses a generator to power lights for nighttime firefighting.

BNSF built a second fire train in 2008 in Vancouver, Wash., with a different design approach. Stationed along the Columbia River at Wishram, Wash., it uses highly modified tank cars with generators and pump systems housed underneath and swivel cannons mounted on top, plus a command center caboose that’s outfitted with a spray bar that can soak wooden ties or bridges while the train is in motion. Since fire train crews often work jointly with local responders, hoses and couplings on the BNSF railcars are made compatible with fire trucks and other equipment. The cars also have siphons, which allow them to be refilled from storage tanks or natural water sources near the right-of-way…

BNSF fire train foam
The BNSF fire train has foam nozzles that can be used to coat or cover the railroad ties as the train moves. From the KEPR video.

We have written about fire trains several times before on Wildfire Today.

Communities in Oregon and Washington most threatened by wildfire identified

After assessing the exposure to wildfire of communities across the Pacific Northwest Region, Oregon and Washington, the 50 most-threatened communities in each state were identified.

In the broadest sense, wildfire exposure encompasses the likelihood of wildfire burning a given location on the landscape, and the potential intensity of a wildfire if one were to occur. For this assessment the researchers focused only on wildfire likelihood because the effect of fire intensity on home loss rate is not well studied, and because the inclusion of intensity for this and similar assessments did not influence the conclusions. Wildfire likelihood is measured by annual burn probability, a measure generated by comprehensive simulation of wildfire occurrence and spread (see section below on Wildfire hazard simulations).

Washington Oregon communities exposed wildfire

Oregon top 10 wildfire exposed communities
The 10 communities in Washington with greatest cumulative housing-unit exposure to wildfire. The “mean of exposed housing units” rank indicates the mean (typical) burn probability of housing units within each community.

Oregon top 10 wildfire exposed communities
The 10 communities in Oregon with greatest cumulative housing-unit exposure to wildfire. The
“mean of exposed housing units” rank indicates the mean (typical) burn probability of housing units within each community.

The research was commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service’s Northwest Region.

More details, including lists of the 50 most threatened communities in both Oregon and Washington, can be found here.

Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands dances with Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear Hilary Franz
Smokey Bear and Hilary Franz, Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands, in a screengrab from the video below.

Smokey Bear and Hilary Franz, Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands, filmed a fire prevention public service announcement with Smokey Bear.

Albuquerque firefighters suppress wildfire on island

They accessed the fire via airboat

wildfire island bosque albuquerque

Yesterday firefighters from the Albuquerque Fire Rescue Wildland Division dealt with a wildfire on an island in the Rio Grande River. They used an airboat to access the 1/4-acre Bosque fire.

Photos are from @abqfire

wildfire island bosque albuquerque wildfire island bosque albuquerque

The first LARGE wildfire I was on was the Safety Harbor fire in Washington when I was with the El Cariso Hotshots. After flying from Southern California we loaded onto a chartered bus which dropped us off near an apple orchard. From there we took a boat across Lake Chelan to the fire. We were actually initial attack on the blaze. It grew much larger than seen in the photo below; we spent two or three weeks there at a spike camp. They fed us Continental Cuisine — frozen meals in plastic hairnet bags that were heated in large tubs of water, seen in the second photo below. Sometimes the frozen food was thoroughly heated; other times, there were still-frozen chunks.

Safety Harbor Fire boat ride El Cariso Hot Shots
El Cariso Hotshots and other firefighters took a boat across Lake Chelan to the Safety Harbor Fire in 1970. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
El Cariso Hotshots Safety Harbor Fire
El Cariso Hotshots at a spike camp on the Safety Harbor Fire in Washington, 1970. This picture was taken after one of the times we got chased out. The fire blew up almost every day in the mid-afternoon and we would have to hike back up a steep slope, sometimes at a brisk pace. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Firefighters — tell us YOUR story about using a boat to get to a fire.

Warm, dry weather increases wildfire activity in western Washington and Oregon

A fire southeast of Salem prompted evacuat.ion orders Tuesday

Numerous wildfires have broken out recently in western Washington and northwest Oregon after several days of warm, dry, and windy weather.

“That’s a result of very strong dry eastern winds that have been pushing across the cascade mountain range and through the Columbia Gorge,” Northwest Coordination Center fire weather program manager John Saltenberger told KGW8 news.

A fire southeast of Salem, Oregon near Lyons jumped the Santiam River and prompted evacuation orders on Tuesday, which were lifted Wednesday. Reported Tuesday afternoon near the North Santiam State Recreation Area off Highway 22, it was mapped at 189 acres after firefighters stopped the spread. By Thursday morning they had a fire line around 80 percent of the perimeter.

A three-alarm vegetation fire south of Seattle in White Center started in a vacant lot Wednesday afternoon. Burning embers landed on the roof of an apartment building and set it ablaze, damaging all seven units in the structure.

The King County Sheriff’s Office reported that a 34-year old man was arrested, suspected of setting the fire.

No residents were injured but two firefighters were transported to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. reported that the Washington DNR responded to eight wildfires in its seven-county Southwest Region on Wednesday — three in Cowlitz, two in Lewis, two in Clark and one in Wahkiakum.  All of the personnel from Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue, were out on fires Wednesday.

Below is an excerpt from

About 40 firefighters and three state helicopters Wednesday fought a wildfire east of Cathlamet that was estimated Tuesday at 40 acres but had grown to 100 acres Wednesday. DNR Spokeswoman Mary McDonald said late Wednesday afternoon it is considered contained.

The fire, which broke out Tuesday and was spread by brisk gusts, burned up a steep slope on the north side of State Route 4 in the Little Cape Horn area. The highway remained opened, said Russ Truman, fire dispatch and prevention officer for the State Department of Natural Resources regional office in Castle Rock.

McDonald said a DNR helicopter was rerouted from the wildfire near Cathlamet to Tower Road after reports the brush fire had reached a structure there. Further details were not available.

“We are tapped,” [ Cowlitz 2 Fire Chief Dave] LaFave said. “Our people are worn out. This is a record. I’ve been in this department 36 years, and I’ve never seen this. People need to stop burning. … There can’t be anything so pressing that (burning) needs to happen right now.”

Russ Truman, fire dispatch and prevention officer for the State Department of Natural Resources regional office in Castle Rock said “Things are burning like they do in September.”

Eatonville (referenced in the tweet below) is about 50 miles south of Seattle.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Stanley. Typos or errors, report them HERE.