omak-okanogan fire

Smoke billows from a blaze east of Omak and Okanogan on the Colville Indian Reservation the morning of Sept. 7.

OKANOGAN – The Pearl Hill/Cold Springs Fire continues to burn southward on the Colville Indian Reservation and across the Columbia River into Douglas County, while a separate fire is burning just outside Omak and Okanogan.

Level 3 (get out now) evacuation notices were issued overnight – Sept. 6-7 - for the southwest portion of the reservation. Some areas of northern Douglas County, including the Town of Mansfield, received similar notices Monday morning after the fire jumped the Columbia River.

The Pearl Hill/Cold Springs Fire erupted about 9:50 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, west of Omak Lake. The Omak-Okanogan blaze started Monday morning.

Both are fanned by north winds that have gusted as high as 46 mph, as recorded just before 11 a.m. Monday at the Omak Municipal Airport, and sustained winds as high was 32 mph.

State fire mobilization was authorized for the Pearl Hill/Cold Springs Fire at 6:45 a.m. Monday at the request of Okanogan County Fire District No. 8 Chief Ed Townsend. Cause of the fire is under investigation.

Both fires are burning in timber, brush and grass, but are threatening homes, crops and power lines. No reports of lost structures had been received by late morning Monday.

A Type 2 management team, five strike teams and air resources were ordered for the Pearl Hill/Cold Springs Fire, according to the state Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray.

Crews from Fire District No. 8 and nearby districts continue to battle the Pearl Hill/Cold Springs Fire on the reservation. Several roads in the area are closed, and the reservation itself is closed to non-residents as a COVID-19 precaution.

The fire jumped the Columbia River and continued burning in Douglas County.

That county’s officials issued Level 3 evacuation notices Monday morning to residence and ranches in the Hayes Road area and east of Road H Northeast toward Highway 17. By 10 a.m., the Level 3 area was expanded to east of Road K Northeast up to Strahl Canyon/Barker Canyon Road and a bit later to include Mansfield.

“All routes in and out of town are currently unsafe for use due to extreme visibility conditions,” said the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

People were asked to shelter in place if possible or go to the Mansfield School gym.

North Central Washington Fairgrounds in Waterville offered shelter for evacuated livestock.

The Brewster RV Park is open free to evacuees.

The Omak-Okanogan blaze apparently began when a fire smoldering in a former sawmill chip pile since late July was rekindled.

Fire crews from Omak, Okanogan, Malott, Riverside, Tonasket and Brewster were called. The Colville Confederated Tribes’ 12 Tribes Resort Casino are threatened, as are homes in the area.

The casino was evacuated.

A couple Malott trucks were pulled off the fire just before 11 a.m. Monday to respond to a fire burning in Little Loup Loup Canyon southwest of Okanogan.

In Douglas County, the state Department of Transportation has closed Highway 17 from milepost 112, the junction with Highway 2, to milepost 136, the junction with Highway 173 in Bridgeport. Highway 172 (Road 14 Northeast) is closed from milepost zero at the junction with Highway 2 to milepost 35 at Mansfield, the junction with Highway 17. Highway 2 is closed from milepost 163, about 13 miles east of Waterville, to milepost 187.5 at the junction with Highway 17.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office said some of that county’s residents received an evacuation notice, but it was not for Grant County.

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