Northwest wildfires grow


From Wire and Staff Reports

COLVILLE, Wash. - Wildfires continue to cause problems for firefighters across the Northwest Monday, with several fires burning in Washington and Oregon.

The largest wildfire in Washington state was the Rattlesnake Canyon fire, burning in a remote area on the Colville Indian Reservation. The fire last measured at 4,500 acres Monday afternoon.

Fire crews rode four houseboats and a state ferry across the mile-wide Columbia River to reach the Rattlesnake Canyon fire, burning in a remote area that is nearly empty of people and roads.

“I’ve never had to take the ferry to a fire before,” firefighter Matt Clinton said after his spin on the Keller Ferry. The nearest bridges are miles away up and downriver.

The Rattlesnake Canyon fire, on the north side of the Columbia River across from the little town of Lincoln and west of the Columbia’s confluence with the Spokane River, did not threatening homes, said Marc Hollen with the Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center in Portland, Ore.

The Rattlesnake fire threatened some Colville cultural sites, but it did not endanger any homes.
The flames were devouring the area’s tinder-dry pine trees and sagebrush despite the efforts of 175 firefighters. None of the wildfire was considered contained.

"The grasses give it speed and the pines give it intensity,” Hollen said.

The very active fire was jumping lines built to contain it, Carol Tocco of the center said Sunday night.

A multi-agency fire-management team took over the blaze Sunday afternoon, working with anthropologists to ensure protection for important tribal cultural sites in the area.

The cause of the fire, which began late Friday near the river, was being investigated, Tocco said Sunday night.

“There was no lightning or anything of that nature,” Hollen said.

No containment date had been set, he said.

Another blaze, the Paddle fire, grew from 700 acres to 1,075 acres on the nearby Spokane Indian Reservation on Monday. Up north in the Pasayten Wilderness, three fires covered a total of about 1,680 acres.

The Paddle fire was burning grass and timber in steep, rocky terrain. No buildings were threatened by the fire 35 miles northwest of Spokane.

There were no injuries among the 144 firefighters that fought the Paddle fire. Some small subdivisions are in the area, fire spokeswoman Josie Williams said, and a change in the wind could send flames toward them.

The fire apparently was started by fireworks shot from a boat on Lake Roosevelt on July 4, and prompted the Spokane tribe to ban fireworks within the reservation the next day, officials said.

Farther north in the Methow Valley near Winthrop, the burning 1,360-acre Farewell Creek fire could take several weeks to contain due to rough terrain, fire officials say. There was no containment of that fire Monday.

The lightning-caused blaze started in a steep timbered area just south of the Pasayten Wilderness on June 28, but the first ground forces did not arrive until Sunday, fire spokesman Mark Morrow said.

The 120-acre Fawn Peak and 200-acre Sweetgrass Fire, ignited in the same lightning storm, were contained Sunday. Mop-up continued Monday.

About 780 people have been assigned to those three fires.


Oregon firefighters, aided by cooler weather Monday, hoped to hold back the fast-moving Link Fire burning through dry forests 20 miles northwest of Sisters in central Oregon. Firefighters had it 50 percent contained.

Fire crews set burnouts Sunday on the northern flank of the Link Fire to deprive it of fuel. The fire was burning on about 600 acres of conifer and pine forests, about five miles northwest of Black Butte Ranch, a popular vacation ranch.

Firefighters had Oregon's Link Fire 50 percent contained Monday morning.

The Link Fire was expected to be fully contained by Tuesday, said Carol Tocco, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. Five 20-person crews, backed up by six bulldozers and two helicopters, were battling the wildfire.

No new evacuations were planned for the fire.

Fire crews made good progress on the Link Fire Sunday, using air tankers and helicopters to help battle the blaze. They were aided by low winds and cooler temperatures.

Some campgrounds near the fire have been evacuated, but no homes were threatened, said Marc Hollen, a spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

There was no lightning in the area of the Link Fire to spark the blaze, Hollen said, but investigators don’t know yet what might have caused it.

Three people were killed Sunday when their car plowed into a truck hauling a bulldozer to the Link Fire. Police said the truck was turning off Oregon Highway 20 and onto a U.S. Forest Service road when the accident happened.

In other Oregon wildfire news, the Davis Fire, located 12 miles west of La Pine and has burned more than 21,000 acres in central Oregon, was 100 percent contained Monday.

Investigators were looking at whether the fire was intentionally set or accidental. They have ruled out lightning as the cause.

The smaller 120-acre Willow fire was also burning about 25 miles south of Pomeroy, Wash. Firefighters had contained it by 50 percent.


Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a brush fire that blackened about a thousand acres in the foothills east of Boise.

Scores of firefighters were backed up by tanker trucks and drops from the air to check the flames. Land managers attacked the fire aggressively to keep it from exploding into the kind of blaze that blackened 22 square miles around Boise in 1996.

The fire began Sunday afternoon across from a restaurant on old state Highway 21.

The Associated Press and contributed to this report.


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