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.

TDN.com 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 TDN.com:

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.

Forest Service plans 75,000-acre fuel treatment project northwest of Wenatchee, Washington

Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project
Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project. USFS map.

The U.S. Forest Service is planning a 75,000-acre project in central Washington intended to restore forest health, reduce wildfire risk, improve wildlife habitat, and improve watershed function on a landscape scale.

The area is northwest of Wenatchee and north of Leavenworth.

The work may include both terrestrial and aquatic components such as prescribed fire, stream improvement, road system work, as well as commercial and non-commercial thinning.

Much of the area within the perimeter of the project does not have a fire history recorded within the last several decades.

Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project
Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project(in blue), showing wildfire history. USFS map.

“With collaboration and sound science, it is possible to move towards a sustainable landscape that is better for the forest and communities alike” said Wenatchee River District Ranger Jeff Rivera. “We want to hear from you early on about wildlife, fish, fire, roads, and other important considerations for this landscape and the people who use it and live by it.”

Forest Service staff will be on hand to answer questions and share an interactive map at an open house Tuesday March 12, 2019 from 6-7:30 pm at the Lake Wenatchee Recreation Club at 14400 Chiwawa Loop Road Leavenworth, WA. This meeting will also be available via Facebook Live. The 30-day formal scoping comment period began February 25, 2019. A draft Environmental Analysis is expected in the fall of 2019.

More information about the project.

Report released for rescue and extraction of water tender rollover victim

It happened on the Cougar Creek fire in Washington

water tender fire rollover wildfire
A total of 30 people—using a combination of standard carry and caterpillar carry, depending on the incline—transported Robert from the accident site down to the road via the pathway that the Type 2 Hand Crew constructed, where an ambulance was waiting. From the report.

A report has been released for what turned out to be a difficult and complex rescue after a water tender rolled 150-feet down a slope. It occurred August 18, 2018 on the Cougar Creek Fire outside of Leavenworth, Washington. The steepness and heavy vegetation slowed efforts to extract and transport the 300-pound truck driver but in spite of the challenges the person identified as “Robert” in the report arrived at a Life Flight helicopter about 2 hours and 20 minutes after the first 911 call.

water tender fire rollover wildfire
The pink flagging marks where Robert’s Water Tender slid off the road and rolled down the hill. From the report.

A system of ropes was necessary in order for personnel to access the victim from the top side, but the report heaps a great deal of praise on a Type 2 hand crew that from a lower road…

“…cut a highway through the forest in a matter of minutes.” In fact, the [Division Supervisor] later recalled that the crew was so fast and so efficient that they cleared the path in front of the Medics who were arriving from the bottom. These Medics coming up from the bottom were able to maintain a “comfortable walking pace” behind the crew as they worked.

The timber canopy virtually eliminated the possibility of extraction by a helicopter with hoist or short haul capabilities. Plus, there was a three-hour ETA for the helicopter.

The 30 people on scene carried the victim in a Stokes basket down the steep slope to a waiting ambulance below, using a standard carry and caterpillar (or conveyor belt) system depending on the incline.

water tender fire rollover wildfire

A section in the report section titled “Drills Work!” included this:

Last year, a Montana Incident Management Team put the Type 2 Crew (who cut the access line up to the accident site on this incident) through a drill that taught them how to use the caterpillar system and polished their cutting skills. This crew’s members said specifically that the reason they were so successful on this incident was because of this earlier drill that they had experienced in Montana.

NIFC produced a video about the management of a serious injury complicated by a helicopter incident that occurred on the Deer Park Fire on the Sawtooth National Forest in central Idaho in 2013. In the video, which can be seen in the Wildfire Today article about the incident, you can see a description of the conveyor belt technique for moving a stokes basket in rocky or steep terrain. It begins at 5:25 in the video.

The entire 11-page report about the August 18, 2018 accident on the Cougar Creek Fire can be downloaded HERE (1.4 MB).