Wenatchee, Wash. – With the north, east, and south perimeters of the Colockum Tarps Fire cold and in varying stages of rehabilitation or mop-up, firefighters focused their attention yesterday on the last remaining containment line segments along the western flank where burnouts were conducted in preparation for aerial ignition of the 1,200-acre area at the head of Tarpiscan Drainage. Trees and fuels in the drainage are burning too close to the perimeter and fire managers feared torching trees could send the fire into unburned forest to the west. Firefighters have been waiting for several days to conduct the burnouts until humidity levels fell to a favorable level. With hot temperatures reaching 80 degrees yesterday, they finally got their chance. The humidity fell to 20 percent at 3,500 feet elevation.
Ignition of upper sections of Tarpiscan, Stray, Tekison and Brushy Creeks will continue today, finalizing the burning operation in the 80,400-acre fire. Evening winds out of the west and northwest have helped to keep the burnouts within the drainages where the fires are backing downhill through ground fuels. Occasional tree torching and short, quick runs are expected today and being closely monitored. Smoke from the burnouts was visible from Vantage, Kittitas and Wenatchee, Wash.
The burnouts below the fire lines will ensure the deeper aerial ignition does not escape the control lines in the future. Information about burning out and aerial ignition can be found at http://tinyurl.com/lczmjsg.
An equipment group has been organized at the satellite incident command post in Kittitas to manage and prioritize all of the heavy equipment being used at the fire, including dozers, water tenders and engines. Six helicopters are assisting firefighters with buckets of water where needed to cool down the burnout. There are 19 firefighting crews, most of whom are concentrated along the five-mile fire line being burned out. The fire is now 64 percent contained.
Steep, irregular terrain has made completion of fire line difficult along the western perimeter from the junction of Naneum and Colockum roads to Little Brushy Road. All other fire lines surrounding the Colockum Tarps Fire have been reinforced and mopped up. Once the burnout is complete and the threat to the perimeter control lines is reduced, containment may be achieved.
Evacuation levels are reassessed daily considering the condition of fire lines, threat from the fire, and the the capacity to notify residents of changing conditions. Although some evacuation levels have changed in Kittitas County, Level 3 Evacuations remain in place for the upper Parke Creek, upper Colockum and Secret Canyon areas, including Hilltop, Sheep Creek, Trail Creek and Tucker Creek. A map of Kittitas County evacuation areas is available athttp://tinyurl.com/jvz3x3u. The Level 1 Evacuation Notification is still in effect for vicinities accessed by Colockum Road, Tarpiscan Road, and Kingsbury Road in Chelan County. The Colockum Road is closed in Kittitas County.
The Colockum Tarps Fire has been burning since Saturday, July 27, 2013, through dry grass, sagebrush and timber growing in steep drainages along the western shore of the Columbia River, 11 miles southwest of Wenatchee, Washington. It was human caused. On July 31, the push from easterly winds moved the fire toward sparsely populated areas along the Parke, Caribou and Colockum Roads in Kittitas County where a Level 3 evacuation notice was issued. The current major operational focus is to complete and reinforce containment lines through timber along the western edge of the fire.