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Rains slow Colockum Tarps but fire continues grows to 80,000 acres; 30% contained

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Rains slow Colockum Tarps but fire continues grows to 80,000 acres; 30% contained

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August 2, 2013

2013_07_31-23.55.39.187-CDTWenatchee, Wash. – Winds out of the northwest and about an eighth of an inch of precipitation over the Colockum Tarps Fire yesterday provided the conditions that allowed firefighters to construct about four miles of line along the most active, western perimeter. Firefighters, working alongside dozers, took advantage of the wind pushing the fire back into the black, and keeping the fire from spreading westward. Today, firefighters will address the approximately six miles remaining to complete line around the 80,108-acre fire. They will continue to mop up, establish, connect and secure fire lines and patrol the fire by ground and air. Air support resources will be devoted to initial attack on new fire starts caused by lightning throughout the area, but also available to ground crews if needed.

Isolated rain showers are expected today over the fire, and are expected to reduce extreme fire behavior in grass and light fuels, but not in trees and brush. Though rain is helping the firefighting efforts, it is also imposing additional safety hazards for firefighters including slick mud and loose rocks. Northwest winds will help push remaining fire back into the black, but upslope easterly winds will negate this benefit in some areas along the fire perimeter.

The Colockum Tarps Fire has been burning since Saturday, July 27, 2013, through dry grass, sagebrush and sparse timber growing in steep drainages along the western shore of the Columbia River, 11 miles southwest of Wenatchee, Washington. The fire has spread quickly. On July 31, the push from easterly winds moved it toward sparsely populated areas along the Parke, Caribou and Colockum Roads in Kittitas County. A Level 3 evacuation notice was issued to approximately 100 home-owners near the fire. Rapid response by air support resources late Wednesday, July 31, dropping retardant and water on the threatened homes, supported by ground forces, were successful. Only three small outhouses were lost.

2013_08_01-22.03.22.660-CDTMike Asher, South Branch operations section chief, said that firefighter efforts yesterday to construct fire lines have “made all the difference” in stopping the Fire’s western advance.

“Nearly 300 firefighters worked hard to construct the strategic fire line at the most active portion of the fire,” Asher said. “As we continue to close up and reinforce the line today, we are aware of the risks of the fire spotting outside and spreading, and new lightning starts. We will continue to aggressively fight this fire,” he said.

Firefighters today will be wrapping up some of their work in the North Branch of the fire, with the most activity directed to the northwest divisions to burn out and cut off stringers of timber still burning in draws.

Dozers and fire crews have constructed more than 20 miles of fire line along the north and west flanks of the fire. The fire is now 30 percent contained. Firefighters are mopping up the fire 100 feet inside the fire lines and 500 feet around structures to ensure there is no heat remaining. Infrared heat-sensing devices and flights have also been used to locate hot fire undetected by the eye.

Strike teams of engines are patrolling and mopping up during night shifts. Helicopters, single engine airtankers (SEATs) and retardant planes are standing by to drop water and retardant to slow the spread of the fire and extinguish hot spots as needed, where visibility and weather allow during the day.

2013_07_30-23.13.57.712-CDTApproximately 60 people affected by the fire attended a public meeting held last night in Ellensburg, at Central Washington University. The meeting was organized by the Kittitas County Sheriff to provide information and support to citizens evacuated from their homes within the fire area or concerned about the fire spreading toward Ellensburg.

As of 12:00 today, the Level 2 Evacuation Notification affecting the Colockum Road, Tarpiscan Road, Kingsbury Road vicinity in Chelan County has been reduced to Level 1. The Colockum Road is still closed in Kittitas County.

Fire Facts – Friday, August 2, 2013 – 0900 HOURS
Fire Size: approximately 80,108 acres Percent Contained: 30%
Evacuations: In effect in Kittitas and Chelan Counties County. Numerous road closures in the fire vicinity. Red Cross Shelter at Mercer Creek Church, 1407 North E Street, Ellensburg. An animal shelter is available at the Kittitas Valley Event Center. For more information contact the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center 509 933-8305.
Fuels: Grass, brush, with timber at the higher elevations
Air Resources: One light, medium, and one heavy helicopter.
Crews: 5 Type 1; 8 Type 2
Engines: 90 Dozers: 7 Water Tenders: 15
Total Personnel: Approx. 833

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