Okanogan Complex News Release

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Okanogan Complex News Release

Aug. 21 - Update

Incident: Okanogan Complex Wildfire
Released: 8/21/2015

Current Situation: As of 6 am, The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team with Todd Pechota as Incident Commander has assumed command of the Okanogan Complex. The Okanogan Complex consists of the Twisp River Fire, Lime Belt/Blue Lake Fire, Tunk Block Fire, Beaver Lake Fire and Nine Mile Fire. The fires are dramatically affecting the communities of Winthrop, Omak Flats, Riverside, Tonasket, Buzzard Lake, Nevel Ride, Loup Loup Meadows and Okanogan.

Structural firefighting resources from diverse locations in Washington and nearby states have been brought in to provide structure protection to properties at greatest risk of threat. The fire is triggering the advisory evacuation of people, pets and livestock to Red Cross shelters at the Brewster High School and Brewster Middle School with animals being sheltered at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds.

The probability of fire ignition is expected to reach 80 percent today. With today’s wind, maximum spotting distance could exceed two miles. Firefighters are on special lookout today for unlined fire edges, new spot fires, fire torching of single and clustered trees, tree crown fires, and very high rates of fire spread in grass and brush. Spot fires will initiate quickly and spread rapidly. Separate areas of fire may interact together increasing overall intensity. Where there is alignment with wind and/or slope, the rate of fire spread in mixed grass and brush is expected to be greater – exceeding 400 feet per minute. The Okanogan Complex of fires is expected to remain active past midnight.

Twisp River Fire: This fire grew overnight to 8,402 acres. Structural firefighters provided active protection of homes and structures along the Twisp River Road with the fire continuing to move down the valley. The portion of the fire that faces the Methow Valley will be exposed to strong northwest winds. The west flank of the fire is expected to spread with single and group tree torching. In the Twisp River drainage, winds will vary in speed and direction, resulting in the potential for flare-ups and spotting.

Lime Belt/Blue Lake Fire: This fire made a major run the last 24 hours, gaining almost 20,000 acres to the south and west. Fire managers anticipate very high head rates of spread in the lighter fuels, with the fire backing and flanking actively into the wind and on protected slopes. Crown fires with long range spotting is expected where the fire gets into heavier timber.

Tunk Block Fire: This fire grew more than 36,000 acres and has now burned onto the Colville Reservation. Fire managers are anticipating very high rates of spread at the fire’s head, potentially resulting in the Tunk Block Fire to join the North Star Fire to the east. Tunk Block is burning in grass and timber about four miles northeast of Riverside.

Beaver Lake Fire: This fire grew to 14,760 acres during the previous 24 hours. Fire managers anticipate very high rates of fire spread in the lighter fuels. Where the fire gets into heavier timber, expect crown fire runs with long range spotting.

Nine Mile Fire: This fire is 90 percent contained at 4,720 acres and remains in patrol status.

Weather: Cool and dry conditions with north winds gusting to 35 miles are expected to cause significant fire spread today. Winds will vary in direction based on local topography. Minimum relative humidity may approach 15 percent. Dust and smoke may impact aircraft visibility. Strong wind conditions will cause turbulence. High wind speeds may ground aircraft.

Evacuations and Closures: Numerous mandatory road closures and voluntary advisory evacuations are in place throughout Okanogan County. For detailed current information, contact the Okanogan Emergency Contact Center at 509-422-7348.

Media Briefings: Media briefings will be held at 11 am daily at Okanogan County Fairgrounds.

Resources Include: 9 Type 2 hand crews, 4 Type 2IA hand crews, 76 engines, 28 water tenders, and 820 total personnel.

Air Resources: 3 Type 1 helicopters and 3 Type 2 helicopters.

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