Milepost 22 Fire threatens homes in Central Washington

The fire is near the Columbia River 19 miles east of Ellensburg

Above: The Milepost 22 Fire, Wednesday night. Photo by Washington State DNR.

(UPDATED at 10:53 a.m. PDT June 21, 2018)

The Washington State DNR announced at about 10 a.m. Friday that the Milepost 22 fire has burned approximately 4,000 to 5,000 acres.


(Originally published at 7:32 a.m. PDT June 21, 2018)

A fire that started late Wednesday afternoon is threatening homes in Central Washington. The Milepost 22 Fire was first reported about two miles north of Interstate 90. Since then it has burned at least 1,750 acres, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

The blaze is just west of Wanapum Lake on the Columbia River at Vantage, Washington and is on both sides of the Vantage Highway which is parallel to and north of Interstate 90. The highway was closed Wednesday afternoon due to downed power lines, but the Interstate remained open.

map Milepost 22 Fire
Map showing heat detected on the Milepost 22 Fire by a satellite at 3:25 a.m. PDT June 21, 2018. Click to enlarge.

Thursday morning the DNR reported that the fire was still growing. A Type 3 Incident Management Team will assume command of the fire at 6 a.m. Thursday.

The weather forecast for the fire area Thursday calls for temperature in the mid-80s, relative humidity in the low 30’s, and wind out of the northwest at 11 to 18 mph gusting at 18-25.

Milepost 22 Fire
The Milepost 22 Fire, Wednesday night. Photo by Washington State DNR.

Teen who started Eagle Creek Fire ordered to pay $36.6 million in restitution

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

A judge has ordered the teen who started the Eagle Creek Fire last summer to pay restitution totaling $36.6 million.

After a complaint from the teen’s attorney that the judgement was “absurd” District Judge John Olson said during the hearing on Monday that it was “clearly proportionate to the offense”.

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

The fire burned 48,831 acres in the Columbia River Gorge in September, 2017. Most of the fire was on the Oregon side of the river but a burning ember started a spot fire on the Washington side which was quickly extinguished.  The fire required the extended closure of Interstate 84, forced hundreds to evacuate, and poured smoke into Portland.

The judge acknowledged that the teen will have trouble coming up with $36.6 million and allowed him to establish a payment plan. If he completes probation and does not have any additional offenses, after 10 years the court may  grant a full or partial halt of the restitution.

Teenager accused of starting Eagle Creek Fire likely to get probation

The fire burned over 48,000 acres in Columbia River Gorge in September, 2017

Above:  Photo of the Eagle Creek Fire posted September 5, 2017.

(Originally published at 12:53 p.m. MT February 10, 2018)

February 16 is the sentencing date for the boy who was 15 years old when he allegedly started the Eagle Creek Fire near the Washington/Oregon border in the Columbia River Gorge. A witness reported seeing the Vancouver juvenile throw a “smoke bomb” into vegetation near the Eagle Creek trail on September 2, 2017. In less than 24 hours the fire grew to 3,000 acres and to 20,000 acres by the morning of September 5.

Eventually burning 48,831 acres, it required the extended closure of Interstate 84, forced hundreds to evacuate, and poured smoke into Portland.

Eagle Creek Fire
A view across the Eagle Creek suspension bridge after a support cable pulled free during or after the fire. The bridge and cables hang near the stream. It will probably be removed before it causes more resource damage.

Because the boy is a juvenile, Oregon Live reports, the options for sentencing include years of probation, probably less than eight days of detention, or about a year in a juvenile correctional facility.

If the judge requires restitution for the costs of suppressing and rehabbing the fire, which are reportedly more than $18 million, the boy will likely only be able to pay a small fraction of the total.

Eagle Creek Fire
The Oneonta Tunnel burned during the Eagle Creek Fire. Rocks are falling from the burned slopes above onto Hwy. 30 and the trail, creating a hazard that will grow worse with winter rains.
Eagle Creek Fire
There is some fire damage near the Multnomah Falls, but the main falls area was mostly spared. Rocks falling in the vicinity of the falls and lodge are concerns.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Eagle Creek Fire”.

(All photos are from InciWeb)

Water tender rollover, Jolly Mountain Fire in Washington

Report released

Water tender rollover
Water tender rollover on the Jolly Mountain Fire in Washington. Photo from PNW RLS report.

A brief lessons-learned report has been released for the rollover of a water tender that occurred September 11 on the Jolly Mountain Fire in central Washington.

Here is an excerpt from the document:

On night shift, at approximately 1845, while driving to the fire line just a short distance outside of fire camp on a county road in a semi-rural area, a cooperator Water Tender drifted to the right-hand side of this narrow road that had a minimal shoulder. According to witness statements, the Water Tender was traveling approximately 34 miles per hour.

The Water Tender driver said that he felt the rear tires move off of the pavement onto the gravel shoulder. The driver did not try to correct for fear that this action would cause the Water Tender to rollover. The driver believes that when both rear tires went off of the pavement, this action pulled the truck into the ditch—causing it to rollover and land on its side. The Water Tender was full of water. During this rollover, the Water Tender’s axles became separated from the vehicle and four sections of private fence were destroyed.

Members of the public who were following the Water Tender were first on scene and called 911. They acknowledged that the driver—who was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident—was alert, oriented, and had minor facial lacerations. (This Water Tender was mobilized through the state and did not go through the inspection process during check in.)

The Rapid Lesson Sharing report released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, other than the facts above, only discusses the management of the incident within an incident, and does not cover causes, prevention, or mention the frequency of rollovers involving water tenders and fire engines. There may be a more complete analysis completed in the coming months. At Wildfire Today there are over three dozen articles tagged “rollover”.

Our hope is that the agencies that respond to wildfires will place more emphasis on training drivers and acquire vehicles that are less likely to rollover and that have a cab strong enough to protect the occupants during a crash.

Update on Eagle Creek Fire in Columbia River Gorge

Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon

According to the Incident Management Team, the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon/Washington border is nowhere near contained — they are calling it 46 percent.

The fire started on the south side of the river September 2, allegedly by a teenager playing with fireworks, and grew rapidly on September 5, spotting across the river into Washington near Archer Mountain.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels helped slow fire growth over last week or so, and as of September 23rd, it is 48,668 acres.

These excellent photos were taken by the Incident Management Team this weekend. They show vast areas of burned trees but also large swaths of green canopy.

Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon Eagle Creek Fire Columbia River Gorge Oregon


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.