Wildfires spread across Northwest


Associated Press
King 5 News

LINCOLN, Wash. - A fire on the Colville Indian Reservation, called the Rattlesnake Canyon fire, swelled to 3,000 acres overnight, increasing its coverage area in north- central Washington by nearly 50 percent, fire officials said Sunday.

A smaller blaze, the Paddle fire, had consumed 600 acres on the Spokane Indian Reservation to the east, and up north in the Pasayten Wilderness, three fires covered a total of about 1,680 acres.

The Rattlecreek Canyon fire, on the north side of the Columbia River, just across from the little town of Lincoln and west of the Columbia's confluence with the Spokane River, was in a remote area and not threatening homes, said Marc Hollen with the Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center in Portland, Ore.

Dry weather is sparking many wildfires this year.
But he said it's going to take more than the 100 firefighters on-site to take care of this one. The flames were devouring the area's tinder-dry pine trees and sagebrush, Hollen said: "The grasses give it speed and the pines give it intensity."

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

The fire, which began late Friday near the river, apparently was human-caused.

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

No containment date had been set, he said.

On the Spokane Indian Reservation, meanwhile - in the same area but east of the Spokane River - the new Paddle fire had scorched 600 acres by midday Sunday. That blaze, which started Saturday, was not burning as strongly as the one on the nearby Colville Rez, in part due to wind and available fuels.

A multi-agency management crew was taking over that fight Sunday evening. The Paddle fire was about 25 percent contained Saturday but there was no updated figure available Sunday, and no word on the amount of personnel on hand.

"The two fires can see each other's columns," Hollen said, and crews on the Spokane Reservation fire thought their blaze looked "pretty puny" compared to the larger conflagration to the west.

Farewell Creek fire

Meanwhile, farther north in the Methow Valley near Winthrop, the Farewell Creek fire expanded about 100 acres overnight to 1,360 acres, said Nick Michel with the state Department of Natural Resources.

It was the largest of three fires in that area, and containment was zero, Michel said. More headway was being made on the two smaller fires, he said, with the 120-acre Fawn Peak blaze about 85 percent contained and the 200-acre Sweetgrass Fire at about 90 percent. Containment for the three-fire complex was about 5 percent.

Fresh crews were due to hit the Farewell Creek fire Sunday, he said.

"We have about 800 people on all three fires, and a whole bunch of equipment," he said.

Sunday marked the start of a ground assault on the Farewell Creek fire, so far tackled only by air. Fire managers had worked out a new strategy and about 200 incoming firefighters were being directed to the blaze, along with bulldozers and other ground equipment.

"This is the first day of a real ground assault on the Farewell Creek Fire," Michel said.

The blaze is in rough, steep terrain and "it took time to find a safe place to put firefighters on the ground," Hollen said.

The blaze is in rough, steep terrain and "it took time to find a safe place to put firefighters on the ground," Hollen said.

The Link fire in central Oregon has burned 150 acres.

New wildfire in Central Oregon

Three people died early Sunday in a collision between a passenger car and truck hauling a bulldozer to a wildfire in central Oregon.

Police says the truck was turning off Oregon Highway 20 near Suttle Lake and onto a U-S Forest Service road when the car slammed into the trailer.

Police have not released the names of the victims.

The truck driver, 59-year-old Richard Caudle of Prineville, was not injured.

The truck was hauling a bulldozer to the Link Fire, a fast-burning fire near Suttle Lake that has jumped from 150 to 800 acres overnight Sunday.

Spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center Marc Hollen says some campgrounds near the fire were evacuated, but no homes were threatened.

The fire is about 15 to 20 miles northwest of Sisters.

Hollen says there was no lightning in the area to spark the fire, but investigators don't know yet what might have caused it.

Also, the Davis Fire, which has burned more than 21,000 acres in central Oregon, is now 95 percent contained.

And the Sulfur Creek fire in the southern Coast Range was 100 percent contained.


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