Lightning sparks two new fires in Methow Valley

— Lightning late Wednesday night ignited two fires on the Methow Valley Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

The 40-acre Tatie Peak Fire is burning in the Slate Creek drainage about three miles from Hart’s Pass and 20 miles northwest of Mazama.

“We are in the process of closing the Pacific Crest Trail from Cutthroat Pass to Harts Pass and also Slate Creek Road No. 700,” Methow Valley District Ranger Mike Liu said. “Our main concerns include predicted lightning igniting more fires, lack of firefighting resources and the large number of miners in the bottom of the Slate Creek drainage. There is only one road in and out of this drainage.”

Liu said the closures might seem premature, but it takes a substantial amount of time to notify miners and for them to leave the area.

“The fire is also close to the ridge where the (trail) is located; this is a high-traffic section of the trail and we want to make sure that the public is safe and out of the area in case this fire grows in size,” Liu said.

The second lightning-caused fire is the half-acre Cutthroat Fire burning nine miles southwest of Mazama and is very visible from the heavily traveled state Highway 20 across the North Cascades. A crew of firefighters hiked into the fire late Wednesday evening and rappellers arrived this morning to assist with firefighting efforts on the main fire and also on a quarter-acre spot fire nearby.

“There are a lot of bug-killed trees and snags in this area, these are hazards that must be considered in making fire suppression plans and for firefighter safety,” Liu said.

A Red Flag Warning has been issued today for all of North Central Washington and most of Eastern Washington to the Idaho and Canadian borders. The warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will shortly.

A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create extreme fire growth potential.

The forecast calls for the possibility of thunderstorms and rain on Friday.


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