helicopter

A helicopter dips water from the Columbia River for the Williams Flats Fire.

KELLER – The Williams Flats Fire has raced across 40,000 acres of land in the past week, with the Colville Confederated Tribes instituting more road closures in the area.

The fire is burning southeast of Keller on tribal and state Department of Natural Resources-protected land. As of Friday morning, Aug. 9, it was 25 percent contained.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is battling a blaze southwest of Stehekin. Rain and lightning hit the mid-valley area Thursday evening, rain and thunderstorms are in the weather forecast for Okanogan County and surrounding areas for the weekend, and fire restrictions were tightened Friday by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The blaze was reported at 3:23 a.m. Friday, Aug. 2, approximately seven miles southeast of Keller and north of the Columbia River. Cause of the fire is under investigation, said the Mount Tolman Fire Center.

Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8, under Incident Commander Doug Johnson, is in charge of the fire fight.

Late Friday, Aug. 8, tribal emergency services instituted several additional road closures with limited entry for the Williams Flats Fire area. The restrictions will allow firefighters to work safely along Silver Creek Road and elsewhere in advance of the fire.

Traffic control points are being established at the junctions of:

-Silver Creek Road and Ninemile-Hellgate Road, also known as the “Four Corners.”

-Olds Creek Road and the Ninemile-Frosty Meadows Road.

-Silver Creek Road and Kuehne Road.

Only residents will be allowed through the control points to their homes within the affected areas. If the fire approaches Silver Creek Road, or if smoke restricts visibility to the point that firefighters are at risk, only fire and other emergency vehicles will be allowed through the traffic control points, said fire officials.

The Level 1 (be aware) evacuation notice issued Aug. 7 for the Fruitland area by Stevens County Sheriff’s Office and Stevens County Fire District No. 2 , in conjunction with the Spokane Tribe of Indians, remains in effect for Enterprise, Two Rivers and West End communities.

Evacuation notices issued for homes near the Williams Flats Fire by the Colville tribal emergency services and the Ferry County Sheriff’s Office remain in effect. They include: Level 3 (get out now), southwest of Wilmont Creek to Whitestone Lookout Road; Level 2 (be ready), all residents in the Wilmont Creek drainage and one resident in Goat/Hellgate Ranch; Level 1 (be aware) all residents and campers along the shoreline of Lake Roosevelt/Columbia River from the Falls Creek/Cougar Canyon Road (the area sometimes called the Smoke Ranch) south to Wilmont Creek Road.

The latter includes the Rogers Bar Campground.

Tribal official ask evacuees go to the Inchelium Community Center and check in. If they need a shelter, a place to stay overnight will be arranged at or near the Community Center

Crews tackle fire flanks

As of Friday morning, Aug. 9, the west flank of the fire remained in patrol status, while firefighters mopped up from burnout operations and were using logging equipment to remove debris and vegetation along Silver Creek Road from Friedlander Meadows to Four Corners. An indirect containment line was being constructed.

On the north and east flanks, the structure protection group continues to assess homes in the Four Corners area for burnout operations and point protection strategies.

That included setting up sprinklers and removing flammable fuels between homes and the fire. Johnny George Lookout was being protected.

On the southeast flank, crews successfully completed a burnout operation Thursday using the favorable winds from the south. On the east flank, the structure protection group continued burnouts along the Ninemile-Hellgate Road, keeping pace with the fire and using the cold black as a barrier.

Initial attack firefighting resources, as request by the tribe, responded to a new start Wednesday night near Mount Tolman.

Meanwhile, the Lundstrom Butte Fire is in patrol status with 100 percent containment. It burned 10 acres in the same area as the Williams Flats Fire.

Resources on Williams Flats include 1,133 people, including nine type 1 hand crews, 11 type 2 IA hand crews, eight type 2 hand crews, five heavy helicopters, two medium helicopters, one light helicopter, four ambulances, 43 engines, 15 bulldozers, two masticators, four skidgenes and 31 water tenders. Additional firefighting resources continue to arrive.

The weather forecast called for mostly cloudy with scattered showers and thunderstorms possible. Although rain is in the forecast, up to 0.1 inch is expected. Light winds are expected, with temperatures of 80-85 degrees.

Additional road closures include Kuehne, Nine Mile-Hellgate, Refrigerator Canyon and Canteen Creek roads.

Boaters are asked to avoid Lake Roosevelt near the fire area, since helicopters and fire boss planes are taking water from the lake. A temporary flight restriction of 10 miles surrounds the fire.

Devore fire advances

The lightning-caused Devore Creek Fire has burned across 425 acres of land about three air miles southwest of Stehekin.

As of Thursday evening, Aug. 8, the fire was advancing slowly in dense stands of sub-alpine fir, silver fir, Douglas fir and lodgepole pine in steep terrain next to Lake Chelan, said the U.S. Forest Service.

Isolated, short-duration, single-tree torching occurred Thursday. Shading from clouds moderated fire behavior.

Fifty-nine people were assigned to the fire, including one hand crew, three helicopters and 31 overhead personnel.

Stehekin is on a Level 1 (be aware) evacuation status.

Fire managers, working with federal, state and local agencies, have developed a plan of actions to take if the fire continues to move down Devore Creek toward the Stehekin Valley. Those plans include a community protection fire line that follows a portion of the Stehekin River Trail.

So far, the fire fight has cost an estimated $965,000. The fire was reported July 26 from lighting storms that moved through the area July 23-24.

The fire grew Wednesday. A heavy lift helicopter was used to make water drops Wednesday afternoon as a delaying action to cool portions of the fire’s leading edges and prevent more spot fires.

Closures include Devore Creek Trail No. 1244, Company Creek Trail No. 1243 and Ten Mile Creek Trail No. 1241. Company Creek Trail is closed at the trailhead in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The Stehekin River Trail in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is closed temporarily between Weaver Point and the Stehekin airstrip.

Weather alerts issued

Rain, wind and lightning hit the mid-Okanogan Valley on Thursday evening, Aug. 7, as a storm passed through the area.

Some residents of the Omak area reported trees and large branches down because of the storm. A few lightning strikes awed rodeo fans at the first performance of the Omak Stampede.

A Red Flag warning is in place through today, Aug. 10, for eastern Washington, said the National Weather Service.

Thunderstorm chances will continue to increase through Saturday, with rain also predicted. Affected areas include the Okanogan and Methow valleys, North Cascades and Okanogan Highlands.

A hazardous weather outlook also is in place for much of eastern Washington. Scattered thunderstorms are possible Saturday and Sunday, with possible heavy rainfall and localized flash flooding of urban areas and near burn scars.

Precaution levels increase

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, the state Department of Natural Resources increased fire danger and industrial fire precaution levels on land it protects in northeast Washington.

Fire danger remains high in the Highlands fire danger rating area and very high in the Valley, Methow, Upper Basin, Lower Basin and Chelan fire danger rating areas.

Fire danger increased from moderate to high in the Kaniksu area and from high to very high in the Foothills, Lower Yakima and Upper Yakima areas.

Campfires are prohibited in the Foothills, Valley and Upper Basin fire danger rating areas. They are allowed only in approved, designated campgrounds in other areas of eastern Washington.

People are advised to check with campground hosts before starting a fire, since some individual campgrounds also may prohibit fires, said DNR.

Industrial fire precaution levels have increased in Zone 686. Levels in other areas remain the same. Daily updates on burn restrictions are available at 800-323-BURN (2876) or on DNR’s website.

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