aerial

The Williams Flats Fire from the air.

OKANOGAN – Thunderstorms that passed through Okanogan and Ferry counties last weekend touched off several fires, but as of mid-afternoon Monday, Aug. 12, none had grown to any great size.

The storm of the longest duration passed over the Omak-Okanogan area between 1 p.m. and about 5:30 p.m., according to National Weather Service statistics.

Parts of the Colville Indian Reservation received more intense lightning strikes. Lightning also was recorded in southern Okanogan County, the Pasayten Wilderness and the Highlands.

Fire crews from District No. 8 (southwestern reservation) and Douglas-Okanogan Fire District No. 15 were called Sunday afternoon to LaGrange Road for a lightning strike fire.

The state Department of Natural Resources received a number of calls for fires. Locally, those included:

-Aug. 12 – German Road, Ferry County, no fire found; Byers Strike, Byers Road in Okanogan County, 0.1 acre of grass and light timber, controlled.

-Aug. 11 – Muckamuck Hill, Okanogan County, smoke check, unable to locate; Fish Hatchery Road, Ferry County, no fire found Siwash Creek, Okanogan County, 1.2 acres of grass, brush, timber and duff; Sugarloaf, Okanogan County, false alarm; LaBelle Place, Okanogan County on Cape Labelle Road, 0.1 acre in grass and timber, contained and on patrol status; Bullfrog, Okanogan County at Palmer Lake, no fire found; Gold Hill, Okanogan County at Cecile Creek, false alarm.

-Aug. 10 – Pontiac, Okanogan County on Pontiac Ridge, no fire found; Dreyer, Ferry County on Barrett Creek, 0.1 acre in grass, brush, slash and light timber, contained.

-Aug. 9 – Renner, Ferry County at Renner Lake, no fire found.

-Aug. 8 – Sterling Strike, Okanogan County on Sterling Lane, 0.1 acre in brush and light timber, contained and controlled, declared out Aug. 12; Washburn, Okanogan County at Washburn Lake, no fire found.

Meanwhile, one traveler reported snow on Disautel Pass on Sunday.

Williams Flats grows

The Williams Flats Fire southwest of Keller grew to 44,670 acres by Monday morning, Aug. 12.

Containment was at 45 percent.

Management of the fire will switch from a Type 2 team to a Type 3 team Thursday.

“The storms over the last few days have been both beneficial and challenging,” said fire officials. “Large amounts of rain caused localized flash flooding, washing out several roads.”

A helicopter will conduct an overflight of the immediate fire area to assess damage to roads and fire suppression areas. A portion of Sunday’s efforts revolved around repairing roads to provide safe access to the work areas.

Along the north flank, a dozer line was constructed, including the area beneath Whitestone Lookout. The structure protection group has finished preparations around homes and structures in the Four Corners area.

On the south flank, firefighters planned to finish a containment line with approximately 1.5 miles remaining to tie in with the main line. On the northeast, efforts will be made to reopen storm-damaged roads to provide access to the fire.

Fire officials said Spokane Tribal Police provided a rescue boat for emergency evacuation of injured firefighters.

The nearby Lundstrom Butte Fire is 100 percent contained and on patrol status.

As of Aug. 12, there were 953 firefighters assigned to the Williams Flats Fire.

Evacuation notices have been issued for homes near the fire by Colville tribal emergency services and the Ferry County Sheriff’s Office.

Level 3 notices were issued for areas south of Four Corners and on or near the shoreline of Lake Roosevelt along the Ninemile-Hellgate Road.

Level 1 notices are in place for the Goat Ranch/Hellgate area and the areas south of Wilmont Creek (including the southern part of Ninemile-Frosty Meadows Road and along the Silver Creek Road).

Kuehne Road is not under any evacuation orders but because of heavy fire traffic, Kuehne Road access is restricted to residents and landowners only.

Several roads are closed and traffic control checkpoints have been set up for residents returning to their homes.

The fire’s cause is under investigation.

Devore Creek winds down

The lightning-caused Devore Creek Fire, three air miles southwest of Stehekin, was at 450 acres as of Aug. 11. Firefighting costs neared $1.19 million, said the U.S. Forest Service.

About a quarter of an inch of rain fell over the fire area Aug. 10 and minimal fire activity was observed, said officials.

“While not a ‘season-ending’ event that would put the fire out, the rain, cooler temperatures and higher humidity have combined to slow fire activity significantly,” said the Forest Service.

The fire is expected to burn until sustained rain or snow arrives in the fall.

Phoenix National Incident Management Organization Team, which had been working the fire for nearly two weeks, was scheduled to transfer fire management to a local Type 3 team on Tuesday morning.

The National Park Service has reopened the portion of the Stehekin River Trail that was closed two weeks ago. Hoses are deployed along the trail for use if the fire should advance close to the Stehekin Valley.

Three other trails remain closed.

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