Evacuation alerts dropped; burned area analysis begins

A Crescent Mountain Fire structure protection crew.

TWISP – Evacuation notices have been lifted for the Crescent Mountain Fire area and the U.S. Forest Service has started assessing burned areas throughout the region for flooding risks.

All evacuation levels were lifted Sept. 8, according to Okanogan County Emergency Management.

Areas of the Twisp River drainage and Libby Creek area had been on Level 3 (get out now) and Level 2 (be ready) for several weeks.

“Due to the work completed by the fire crews and the overnight moisture, Fire District 6 and the incident management team have recommended lifting all evacuation levels in the Twisp River Valley and Libby Creek,” said an alert from the agency.

A thunderstorm swept across the county Friday evening, bringing downpours of rain to several areas.

Twisp River Road remains closed at Little Bridge Creek, except to local traffic, and Libby Creek Road remains closed at Highway 153, except to local traffic. Road closures will continue because of continued fire crew activity on roads and Forest Service closures.

As of Monday, Sept. 10, a team of soil scientists, hydrologists and other experts began assessing areas burned in large wildfires this summer, including the Miriam, Cougar Creek, Crescent Mountain and McLeod fires, said the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

“Under higher-intensity burn conditions, soils in these areas may absorb less water in the future, potentially producing runoff and erosion downstream,” the agency said.

“Even as firefighting continues on some portions of these fires, we’re starting burned area emergency response in others,” said Molly Hanson, forest BAER coordinator. “Our goal is to assess unacceptable risks to life, property and watersheds from exposed soil, runoff or possible flooding.”

So far, more than 120,000 acres have burned in the forest this year. BAER efforts will focus mostly on human life and safety concerns, including potential downstream impacts to communities such as Ardenvoir and Twisp.

Emergency stabilization work may be needed. Forest officials said similar work is being done by other federal, state, county and local agencies to help private landowners plan and prepare.

Hanson urged landowners to work with the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service and other agencies.

As of Monday, the lightning-caused Crescent Mountain Fire had burned across 51,363 acres of land and was 39 percent contained. The fire began around 21 miles west of Twisp in the Twisp River drainage.

Crews continue to patrol and mop up along Twisp River Road and Buttermilk Creek. Over the weekend, the fire continued to grow in the Spirit Mountain area west of Libby Creek.

East of Mission Peak, firing operations will continue with use of air support, said the Forest Service.

Crews constructed fire lines south of Mission Peak to the Libby Lake Trail to keep the fire in check. Preparation of fire control lines in the Libby Creek and Gold Creek drainages are nearing completion to the Foggy Dew area.

Water pumps and fire hoses continue to be removed in the Twisp River Road corridor because of the reduced threat and limited fire activity.

The McLeod Fire, burning eight miles north of Mazama, has blackened about 22,661 acres of land and was 43 percent contained as of Monday. The lightning-caused fire began Aug. 11.

Fire continues to be active in the Sunshine Creek and Lost River Gorge areas, forest officials said. Helicopters are supporting ground crews with the use of retardant as the fire moves lower in the Sunshine Creek drainage.

Crews made progress continuing line construction south of Setting Sun Mountain and in the Yellow Jack area. Control lines from Eightmile Road and the south fire perimeter are holding.

Forest officials said the fire is creeping around in the old Whiteface Fire scar toward the control line.

Suppression repair continues around the southeast portion of the fire.

A third blaze, the Holman Fire, has burned across 302 acres in Pasayten Wilderness. There is no containment.

The fire, of unknown cause, began Aug. 17 on Holman Peak.

A patrol flight over the fire last week showed minimal fire activity and growth.

Some trails and area closures are in place in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and North Cascades National Park in the areas of all three fires. Temporary flight restrictions also are in place.

Cooler weather is in the forecast, forest officials said.

Air quality has returned to “good” for much of the state, according to AirNow.com.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for a chance of showers through Friday for the Omak area, although Tuesday’s forecast called for a slight chance of thunderstorms. Highs are expected in the upper 60s and lower 70s.

The forecast for the Winthrop area is similar, although there could be thunderstorms Wednesday night.

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