The skies above many areas of the Pacific Northwest grew smokier Saturday as the number of wildfires plaguing the region increased in number and severity, leading to a fresh round of highway closures and property evacuations with only days left until the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.
Some of the newest fires are burning on the west side of the Cascades in rugged terrain, posing a challenge to firefighting crews hoping to contain their spread.
In the Evergreen State, authorities were racing to respond to the Bolt Creek Fire, which ignited near Skykomish and forced the closure of U.S. Route 2, as well as evacuations of rural King and Snohomish County residents. The Department of Natural Resources has deployed aircraft to fight the fire, including water scoopers, but it continues to burn in rugged terrain. Smoke from the fire was being funneled over much of Northwest Washington as of late afternoon Saturday.
The fire was reportedly burning a hundred acres as of 5 AM Saturday. By the afternoon the conflagration had engulfed more than 2,000 acres.
South of Mount Rainier, not far from Packwood, the weeks-long smoldering Goat Rocks Fire was getting worse due to high winds.
“The Goat Rocks Fire is estimated to be 1,500 acres in size,” said a September 10th status report. “The incident was discovered on August 9th, 2022 and was partly suppressed by a rappel attack crew. Crews suppressed what they safely could and the fire was monitored. On September 9, 2022 the fire began to increase in size during a high wind event.”
The fire prompted the closure of U.S. 12 leading to White Pass and evacuations of the Timberline, Goat Rocks, and High Valley neighborhoods east of Packwood.
“This morning crews are utilizing aircraft where they can to slow fire growth and lower fire intensity before weather conditions deteriorate. As wind speeds increase aircraft become less effective and conditions become difficult and dangerous to fly in. Once those winds pick up aircraft will return to their bases for safety. Additional resources arrived this morning and they are working to continue identifying and constructing fire breaks where they safely can.”
In the Beaver State, the Cedar Creek Fire continues to imperil Oakridge, a mountain community in the Cascades not far from Bend and Sunriver. Alarmingly, the fire doubled in size yesterday and is now a much graver threat than before.
The fire’s current acreage is 73,922, according to an infrared flight. It has torched a significant amount of the shoreline of Waldo Lake. Much of Route 58 through the Cascades is presently closed due to the fire.
The Cedar Creek Fire ignited August 1st and was caused by lightning. 862 personnel are currently working on fighting this fire, with 29 engines, 19 crews, 46 pieces of heavy equipment and 8 helicopters.
“The fire has not crossed west of Highway 19; firefighters are working to hold and improve the east side,” a morning update explained.
“Spot fires crossed south of Highway 58 at Kitson Ridge. Firefighters are working to keep the fire north of Forest Road 1928. Today’s fire activity is expected to be extreme with long-range spotting and crown runs.”
“Expect a large smoke column to develop by mid-morning. East of Waldo Lake, the Alaska Incident Management Team has established two branches and six divisions to work in the Deschutes National Forest side of the Cedar Creek Fire. Where possible, direct attack water drops with helicopters is occurring on the southeast edge. Crews are preparing Road 4290 from Charlton Lakes to the Cascade Lakes Highway to control the spread of the fire to the southeast.”
“To prevent the spread of the fire toward the east, efforts are focused on shaded fuel breaks 100–200 feet in depth on both sides of the Cascade Lakes Highway. Crews are working in the Brown Mountain area south of Crane Prairie Lake and working north. From the north, crews are working from the 2017 Nash Fire burned area near Elk Lake and improving the fuel breaks on both sides of the Cascade Lakes Highway working south. Additional contingencies are being scouted for east of the Cascade Lakes Highway.”
Meanwhile, up in the Mount Hood area, a smaller fire that ignited in Milo McIver State Park close to the entrance and day use area (which contains a nice lookout offering views of Mount Hood) forced the authorities to evacuate the entire park during the middle of the night, including those who staying in the campground.
Clackamas County evacuated nearby residents. Authoritieis told KATU 2 they have done a good job containing the fire. “We have been doing a great job keeping it at bay,” an official said. “We really expect to get a pretty good handle on it.”
Further to the south, firefighers were making progress on the Double Creek Fire.
“The cooler weather has moderated fire behavior somewhat in the timber, but the fire is still actively spreading in the grass. Structure protection preparations are complete along Lostine Road. Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) task forces continue to assist with operations on the south side of Double Creek.”
The fire is now at 147,582 acres in size.
It is 15% contained, with 796 personnel assigned.
“The west side of the fire has been secured and Upper Imnaha Road from Imnaha to Freezeout Road is in patrol status,” a Saturday morning update explained.
“The fire continues to actively spread in the dry grass on the north, east, and south side of the fire. Firefighters are working in Horse Creek drainage on the north side of the fire to secure structures and look for opportunities to build control line to the east. River boats are being used to patrol and assess structure protection needs along the Snake River. Firefighters continue to protect structures along Upper Imnaha Road on the south side of the fire and to scout for potential control lines to tie the road to the Snake River to the east.”
“The OSFM task forces are engaged in structure protection preparations in Imnaha River Woods four miles south of the fires edge.
Index of significant fires
NW Pasayten Complex