Smokejumpers respond to fire on War Creek

TWISP – Smokejumpers responded Thursday morning to a small fire at the head of War Creek in the Methow Valley Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

The four jumpers, from the North Cascades Smokejumper Base near Winthrop, responded to the 0.1-acre blaze in the Lake-Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness. The fire was detected during a reconnaissance flight in the wake of a lightning storm the night before, forest spokeswoman Shannon O’Brien said.

“It is common for fire managers to request reconnaissance flights following lightning storms like the one we had last night,” district Fire Management Officer Matt Desimone said. “Along with our staffed lookouts, reports from the public and patrols, recon flights are an important tool in meeting our objective to catch fires early, while they’re small.”

Each time there is a new fire in designated wilderness areas, decision makers must determine whether suppression or management is the best approach, O’Brien said.

The decision is based on what is sometimes referred to as a “go/no-go” analysis. Land managers weigh the likelihood of meeting land management objectives against the location of the fire and its proximity to homes or other values at risk.

They factor in things such as projected fire behavior, fire severity level and number of weeks left in fire season. The outcome of this analysis is a decision about whether to suppress the fire or use it to meet resource objectives.

Suppression was selected for Action 396 and the Newby Lake Fire, two recent fires in designated wilderness areas.

“It’s early in the season,” District Ranger Mike Liu said. “Action 396 was burning in an area with continuous fuels down to the Twisp River, where there are many values at risk. Conditions are dry and there are still several weeks left in the fire season.”

Suppression for wilderness fires is done using minimum impact suppression tactics. Firefighters use chainsaws and hand tools. They can pump water; air support is available.

“While the Forest Service is proud of its high success rate for keeping fires small, firefighter and public safety always come first,” said Liu.


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