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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7/16/2014 Mills Canyon & Chiwaukum Fire Update

Yesterday
A high temperature of 108 degrees was registered in Entiat Tuesday afternoon.  Heat safety was emphasized to firefighters and no serious incidents were reported.  The planned burnout was postponed indefinitely.  The decision was made for crews assigned to that area to instead, aggressively mop up hot spots; reducing the possibility of burning materials crossing the fireline..  Elsewhere on the fire, work progressed as planned.  Crews continued closing gaps between line segments along the northwest flank. The structure group completed priority contingency work south of Burch Mountain.  The north and east flanks were in mop up and patrol status and are ready to initiate fireline rehabilitation. 
A new fire was detected on the the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest northwest of Winton, Washington.  Located in Chiwaukum Creek, the estimated size was at over 400 acres with active spotting by late afternoon.   Responsibility for this fire has been assigned to PNW Team 3.  An Initial contingent of air and ground resources and support were assigned last night.  
Weather
A Heat Advisory continues through today. Maximum temperatures are predicted to be only slightly cooler than yesterday. Relative humidity will remain low (very dry air).  A dry cold front will begin moving through the region later today bringing Increased wind velocities (10 to 12 mph with gusts to 20), and shifting direction from west to the west-northwest later today.   As the front passes, a fire weather advisory related to wind and dry conditions is expected.
Today's Operations
Activities on Mills Canyon will be very similar to yesterday.  The emphasis is on closing any remaining gaps in the containment lines, advancing mop up operations and performing fireline rehabilitation on the most secure segments.   An initial attack group remains in place to respond to new fire starts within the Mills Canyon vicinity and assist local agencies as needed.
The Chiwaukum Fire is burning in heavy timber, logging slash and brush. Active spotting (embers lofted ahead of the main fire) and intense burning were observed. Part of the fire is within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and road access to its present location is limited.  Seven hand crews, structure protection units, bulldozers and supervisory personnel are working on that fire.  Values at risk include structures north and west of the fire, a busy railroad line, a federal campground and natural resources. The first steps today are to assess the fire, develop a  more detailed plan of attack and begin implementing that plan.  A spike camp is being established at Fish Lake Airstrip to support operations and it is anticipated that additional resources will be allocated to the fire.  With the new mission components, firefighters were reminded not to be distracted from their assigned tasks—whether that is successfully concluding Mills Canyon or attacking Chiwaukum.   
Smoke patterns likely will change from what they have been for the past week.  Activity on Mills Canyon has diminished, while Chiwaukum is increasing.  Leavenworth and Cashmere may experience more intense smoke incursions. The elderly, children, and anyone with compromised respiratory health are advised to take precautions to limit exposure to smokey conditions. The Chelan-Douglas County Health District provides local air quality advisories (www.cdhd.wa.gov).
Potential traffic hazards between Wenatchee and Entiat have decreased to a degree.  However, travelers on US Highway 2 west of Leavenworth may see fire traffic and smoky conditions.  Motorists should stay informed about highway closures when using these routes, especially US 2.   Drivers are cautioned to avoid being distracted by fire activity and suppression traffic as they enter fire zones.
Fire activity across the Pacific Northwest has increased dramatically.  Be sure to check with your fire agencies for restrictions, forest and state closures.
Evacuations Mills Canyon
Level 1:  Entiat River Road from Keystone to Mad River, Eagle Rock/Burch Mountain area, Nahahum Canyon beyond the end of the pavement, Hay Canyon beyond the end of the pavement and Olalla Canyon beyond the end of the pavement (a total of approximately 416 structures).
Level 2:  Swakane Canyon (approximately 3 structures).
Level 3:  None
Evacuations Chiwaukum
Level 1: None
Level 2: The south side of US Highway 2 from Coulter Creek to Hatchery Creek.
Level 3: Chiwaukum Creek Road, Coulter Creek Road, including Scottish High Camp.

The truck portion of Nason Creek Rest Area is closed.  The passenger car areas is open.
Chelan County officials in consultation with the incident management team are regularly evaluating evacuation levels and making adjustments as conditions dictate. For additional information on evacuation levels or road closures, please refer to the Chelan County Emergency Management Facebook page.
Definitions
Level 1: Alert - Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area, and monitor local media outlets for information. Evacuations at this time are voluntary.
Level 2: Be Ready - This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the effected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready at a moment's notice.
Level 3: Leave Immediately - Danger to your area is current or imminent, and you should leave immediately.
Shelters
The Red Cross is on standby if shelter is needed.   For additional information contact the Wenatchee Red Cross at 509-663-3907

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