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Wildfire contained, but still smoldering

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Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012 10:00 am | Updated: 12:48 pm, Mon Oct 8, 2012.

The Table Mountain Fire was 100 percent contained Friday, but smoldering areas remain inside the burn area, and some closures and evacuation notices are still in place. 

Liberty and the Liberty Mountain areas are restricted to local traffic only. Kittitas County forest areas south of the Kittitas-Chelan County line, east of Coleman Road, west of U.S. Highway 97 and north of the boundaries of the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Naneum State Forests are still closed. 

Cle Elum Ranger District trail and road closures have, however, been lifted in the Stafford Creek, Upper Teanaway Ridge and Ingalls Creek areas west of Blewett Pass and U.S. Highway 97. Trail closures continue along the French Cabin Trail (No. 1307) and Kachess Ridge Trail (No. 1315) from Knox Creek junction to the saddle that drops into Silver Creek, north of the town of Easton.

Fire crews continued to find scattered pockets of smoldering material within 100 feet of fire lines throughout the burn area this weekend, fire information officer Seth Barnes said.

“That’s something that we continue to look for, and hit those and mop those up,” Barnes said.

Barnes said there is no official estimate yet as to when the fire might be declared under control. Fire crews generally need to examine a control line several times without finding heat within 200 feet of the line or 500 feet of structures before declaring a fire controlled. Remaining pockets of smoldering heat, dry conditions and high temperatures are keeping fire officials from declaring the blaze controlled.

Smoke continued to spew from the fire area this morning. But Barnes said most of the smoke originated from the interior of the fire where pockets of fuel continue to burn.

Air quality remained unhealthy for sensitive groups in Ellensburg this morning, and Barnes said some smoke will most likely rise from the area burned by the Table Mountain Fire until snow or significant rain falls. The fire could, however, be declared under control before snow or rainfall arrives, Barnes said.

Crews continued to battle abnormally dry conditions this morning, and forecasts remain dry with relative humidity around 20 percent. Barnes said firefighters’ initial attack crews are still on alert in case new fires start.

Some precipitation is possible Friday and Saturday, Barnes said, but the moisture may not be significant enough to completely squelch the remnants of the Table Mountain Fire. 

“We’re hoping, at some point, we’ll get that nice significant rainfall and be able to call an end to the fire season,” Barnes said. “I’m sure the citizens around here would appreciate that as well. It’s been a long year.”

About 284 firefighters are working to suppress the Table Mountain Fire, and leadership of the firefighting effort transferred from a national type 1 incident management team to a local type 3 incident management team Saturday morning. The multi-agency type 3 team is lead by U.S. Forest Service’s Yakima River Fire Division Fire Management Officer Mike Starkovich. 

Rehabilitating land damaged during firefighting efforts has now become firefighters primary focus. Rehabilitation efforts can include activities like repairing soil damage that increases the risk of flooding or erosion, and chipping piles of trees cut down during the construction of firelines has become a main focus of fire crews. The piles of trees increase fire danger.

Rehabilitation

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has also created a multi-agency burned area emergency response team to gather information, conduct an analysis and determine the post-fire condition of the burned watersheds near central Washington’s recent wildfires. The team also will recommend emergency stabilization treatments, according to a press release issued Friday.

“That’s a very slow and arduous process, as you can imagine across a fireline that big, but it ends up looking really good,” Barnes said. 

Crews have built about 90 miles of fire line to contain the Table Mountain Fire since lightning ignited the 42,312 acre inferno Sept. 9

“We’ve got the fire contained,” Barnes said. “But there’s still fire.”

 

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