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FIRE REPORT: Weather shift could make fire season worse

by JOEL MARTIN
Staff Writer | September 14, 2023 3:41 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite the recent cooler and rainy conditions that moderated fire activity in the Northwest, fire season continues with a change in the weather pattern underway, according to the U.S. Fire Service. Light east winds are forecast for later this week with significant warming and drying expected to occur throughout Oregon and Washington.

East wind events are common this time of year, the Forest Service wrote. They often start in late August, continue into September and even occur in October some years. East winds produce strong, dry winds west of the Cascades. They increase the potential for wildfire starts and rapid growth on existing fires; however, the severity and duration of east winds vary widely.

Much of the region is already in moderate to severe drought, the Forest Service statement said. Fire managers are projecting above-normal Energy Release Component numbers through Monday. This essentially means that fuels are drying, and fires are likely to burn at higher intensity.

Overall, fire managers expect to see an increase in fire danger through early next week over much of the region. This means new wildfires may be challenging to contain until the weather moderates again. Existing fires that have shown little growth and smoke over the last week may also become more active.

The Cowlitz Complex fires in Gifford Pinchot National Forest between Mount Rainier and the Columbia River were still 21% contained Thursday at 672 acres, according to the Forest Service. A total of 328 personnel were working on the fires. Costs were estimated at $10 million.

These fires were also burning Thursday, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center:

Roza Slope: This fire about 8 miles north of Selah was 60% contained at 200 acres Thursday. Costs were estimated at $1.5 million. It was discovered Sept. 12.

South Slope: Discovered Sept. 12 about 6 miles north of Selah, this fire was 60% contained at 400 acres Thursday. Costs were estimated at $1.5 million.

Diamond Mountain: This fire about 25 miles south of Port Angeles was discovered Sept. 1 and was had spread to 30 acres Thursday. The cause was determined to be natural. It was uncontained and costs were estimated at $10,000.

Low Divide: This fire in the Olympic National Forest was discovered Sept. 1 and was at 60 acres Thursday. It was uncontained and costs were estimated at $125,000. The cause was determined to be natural.

Martin Lake: This fire in the Olympic National Forest was discovered Sept. 1 and was at 30 acres Thursday. It was uncontained and costs were estimated at $50,000.

Eagle Point: Discovered Aug. 29 about 12 miles south of Port Angeles, this fire remained at 85 acres Thursday. It was still uncontained and costs were estimated at $100,000.

Oregon Road: This fire discovered Aug. 18 about 31 miles north of Spokane was still 99% contained at 10,817 acres Thursday. Costs are estimated at $14.2 million.

Salmo Basin: This fire, on the Canadian border 55 miles north of Newport, stood at 75 acres Thursday. The blaze was discovered July 30. Containment information was not available. Costs are estimated at $500,000.

Blue Lake: This blaze about 53 miles west of Omak was still 80% contained Thursday at 1,075 acres. Costs were estimated at $5 million. It was discovered July 29.

Yellepit: This fire, discovered Sept. 1 about 14 miles southeast of Kennewick on the Columbia River, has burned 1,582 acres. It was 100% contained Thursday and costs were estimated at $100,000.

Sourdough: Burning in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area in the north Cascades since July 29, it was still 30% contained Thursday at 6,234 acres. Costs are estimated at $24 million.

Dome Peak: This fire, located northeast of the Mt. Baker National Forest, was still uncontained as of Thursday and was holding steady at 1,076 acres. The fire was reported July 29. Costs were estimated at $100,000.

Lake Whatcom: Discovered Aug. 28 about 9 miles southeast of Bellingham, this fire was 100% contained at 40 acres Thursday. Costs were estimated at $850,000.

Kindy Creek: Discovered Aug. 18 in the mountains above Lake Chelan about 75 miles northwest of Wenatchee, this blaze was still at 197 acres Thursday. It was was uncontained and costs were estimated at $90,000.

Airplane Lake: This blaze about 53 miles northwest of Wenatchee remained at 5,160 acres Thursday and costs are estimated at $500,000. It is reported as uncontained and no cause has been identified. It was discovered July 7.

Chocolate Creek: This blaze about 58 miles northwest of Wenatchee was uncontained Thursday at 15 acres. Costs were estimated at $90,000.

Gray: Discovered Aug. 18 about 17 miles west of Spokane, it was 99% contained at 10,085 acres Thursday. The fire was determined to be caused by human activity and costs were estimated at $10.4 million.

Toothaker: 300 acres burned about 8 miles southeast of Kennewick. The fire was discovered Aug. 17. It was 100% contained Thursday with costs estimated at $350,000.

Consalus Incident: Around 475 acres burned near the Idaho border due east of the Little Oreille National Wildlife Refuge. The fire has cost about $12 million and was 100% contained Thursday. Authorities report that the cause of the fire is natural.

Several other fires are reported throughout the state but have burned less than 10 acres and are not included in this report. The majority are less than 1 acre.

Joel Martin may be reached by email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.