Yesterday’s Activities: Firefighters continued working to ensure that their containment lines were secure as the weather produced 0.02-0.06 inches of rain in the early morning on both the Tunk Block as well as the North Star Fire. The rain lasted until about noon.
Most heat on the Tunk Fire was in the eastern portion and that was reduced and contained by aviation. On the North Star Fire, machine work, as well as hand crews, mopped up along the eastern edge. The southern end was patrolled and is looking good. Firefighters are going direct in the western portion. A burnout operation of about 50 acres was successful in helping strengthen containment lines on the southeast corner.
A minor spot fire was controlled in the Tunk Block Fire yesterday.
Today’s Operations: Burnout operations to secure firelines are a priority for today as fine fuels dry enough to meet the intended objectives. As temperatures rise and humidity levels drop, more active fire behavior is anticipated on the open flanks and smokes may be visible within the fire perimeter. Above 3,000 feet fine fuels, like grasses, will be slower to dry and the fire is expected to be less active at those higher elevations. Backing fire will be seen under forest canopy in the mid-slope areas.
There are now containment lines in place on the southwest portion of the North Star Fire. On the northwest portion crews will continue mopping-up and holding the line.
Last night’s infrared flight detected of heat on the eastern perimeter of the Tunk Block fire and firefighters will continue with containment efforts along that flank.
Weather: The forecasted weather for today is 53-58 in ridges and 65-70 in the valleys. Minimum RH 25-35%. Up slope/Up valley winds 2-5MPH.High pressure is forecast to weaken Saturday, bringing some increased winds to the region.
Evacuations/Closure Information: Evacuation and closure information is dynamic and changes more frequently than this report is updated. For the most current evacuation information, please contact your closest Emergency Operations Center (EOC): Colville Tribal Emergency Services 509-634-2105, Okanogan County EOC (509) 422-7206, Ferry County EOC 509-775-3132. Highway closure information is available online:http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts.
National Forest Lands east of Tonasket and south of Highway 20 on the Tonasket Ranger District are closed. Colville Indian Reservation forest and recreational areas are closed within the fires.
Omak, WA - Just north of the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington State is the Aeneas Valley, bordered by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Like many valleys in the interior American West, it has ranches, private residences, and vacation homes. Prior to settlement by Euro-Americans, these forests were characterized by open large ponderosa stands with scattered Douglas fir and western larch. These ponderosa pine forests were kept open by frequent low intensity fires that were more often a ground fire carried by needles and bunchgrasses. With fire suppression that began over 100 years ago, Douglas fir and western larch have increased in these forests making them denser, and creating fuel ladders to the crowns of trees enabling the intense crown fires that are more common today.
The USDA Forest Service has undertaken several forest restoration projects over recent years to move the native dry mixed conifer forests in the Aeneas Valley towards more historic condition, and better protect private property and infrastructure from wildfire. The Forest Service has thinned forests by removing smaller trees under 21 inches diameter, piled logging slash for burning, and then underburned to further remove ground fuels that could carry a wildfire. Within selective areas, a secondary objective of these projects has been to reduce dwarf mistletoe in Douglas fir and western larch by removing infected trees. Dwarf mistletoe, a native pathogen abundant today in these forests, retards growth and forms masses of low hanging branches that can serve as fuel ladders, often throwing firebrands that spread wildfire.
These forest restoration projects, completed as long as ten years ago, provided firefighters an effective location to defend against the fast moving Tunk Block and North Star fires. The Frosty Healthy Forest Restoration Project on the east edge of Aeneas Valley, and the Upper Aeneas Restoration Project along the northeast corner of the Tunk Block Fire, reduced fuel loading and interrupted ground and ladder fuel continuity. This allowed the fire to drop from crowns to the ground and burn with less intensity where suppression resources could successfully engage the fire. Firefighters building contingency fire lines between the two large wildfires have taken advantage of forest restoration work in the Upper Aeneas, Sneed, Bailey, and Lost Restoration Projects. This earlier work reduced the amount of time and resources needed to accomplish this labor intensive work along the southern edge of Aeneas Valley.
On-going work under the Okanogan-Wenatchee’s Forest Restoration Strategy will continue to reduce the extent and impacts of uncharacteristic large intense wildfires, restore dry mixed-conifer forests, and dramatically increase fire fighter safety while offering better protection of values at risk such as homes and power lines. Development in the wildland urban interface and projected future climate change leading to increased large wildfire risks combine to make this restoration work more imperative than ever.