By Saturday afternoon, containment of the Buffalo Lake Road fire had increased to 93%. Mop up continues to progress as firefighters work to ensure that the fire perimeter is brought under control. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Washington Department of Natural Resources, who are in charge of firefighting on the affected land, define successful mop-up as completely extinguishing and cooling a line that is 50 feet wide in grass, 100 feet wide in timber, and 500 feet wide around houses.
Specialists are using hand-held heat detecting machines to identify and mark any remaining hot spots. Crews following behind the detection effort will dig out, expose, spread, and cool any remaining heat with hand tools like shovels and water. The 21 engines, 12 water tenders and seven hand crews currently staffing the fire, indicate just how much effort this job requires.
The most difficult areas to mop up are steep, rocky terrain and sites with a lot of woody vegetation that could contain smoldering logs or roots. The weather system that had been forecast to deliver lightning to the area last night stalled outside Washington. The storm reestablished itself and is due to reach this area in the early afternoon today. Crews are being briefed on lightning safety.
Contingency plans identify specific crews for initial attack should they be needed.
All roads in the area including Peter Dan Road, Buffalo Lake Road and Hwy 155 are open. Drivers should use caution, obey speed limits and watch for fire personnel. On some sites, rocks or debris may have been loosened when the supporting plants and logs burned away.
Coordination continues between the Colville Confederated Tribes, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Department of Natural Resources, US Bureau of Reclamation, Okanogan Fire District 2, Elmer City Fire Department, Coulee Dam Fire Department, Grant County Fire Department, National Park Service and Okanogan County.
Press Release: Most of the Buffalo Lake Road Fire was quiet yesterday, giving firefighters the opportunity to continue improving containment lines and mopping up throughout its perimeter. In the southeast section, near Swawilla Basin, even with more fire activity, the rocky terrain made it difficult to thoroughly burn out the sparse fuels. Despite these challenges, crews located and built a new containment line that is closer to the body of the fire. This strategy will hasten successful containment. Utility crews were able to access and repair burned powerlines enabling restoration of electricity to Mt. Tolman and the town of Keller. All roads in the area including Peter Dan Road, Buffalo Lake Road and Hwy 155 are open. Drivers should use caution, watching for fire personnel and any rolling rocks or debris that has been loosened when the supporting plants and logs burned away. Today's weather is expected to exceed 100°F, with relative humidity of 11%. Although winds should generally be light, there's a chance of dry lightning storms tonight. Crews are alert to the possibility of erratic winds as weather changes and managers have created contingency plans for providing "initial attack" forces if needed in the area. The current size of the wildfire is approximately 11,091 acres with 82% containment. Coordination is occurring between the Colville Confederated Tribes, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Department of Natural Resources, US Bureau of Reclamation, Okanogan Fire District 2, Elmer City Fire Department, Coulee Dam Fire Department, Grant County Fire Department, National Park Service and Okanogan County.
UPDATE/Just confirmed: Fire now 70% contained, no update on acreage yet. All of Elmer City & Coulee Dam still on level 1 evacuation notice bc of smoke and smoldering in area. Means they need to be thinking about poss evac but don't need to pack up.
ELMER CITY, Wash. (AP) - Firefighters have held a wildfire near Grand Coulee Dam to 7,800 acres - about 12 square miles - and residents of three homes who were evacuated Wednesday have been allowed to return. Colville tribal spokeswoman Kathy Moses in Nespelem says nine structures remain threatened. No one has been injured in the fire that broke out Tuesday evening near the community Elmer City and burned two outbuildings. About 100 firefighters from local districts, the tribe, state and federal agencies are working Thursday to extend fire lines.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)