[pct-l] Stehekin residents wait to see if fire lines hold

csxii at schizoaffective.org csxii at schizoaffective.org
Wed Sep 13 21:45:37 CDT 2006

Published Sept. 13, 2006

Stehekin residents wait to see if fire lines hold


The Associated Press

STEHEKIN -- Even fire managers concede that residents are anxious,
frustrated and in some cases angry that a wildfire continues to
threaten this remote mountain community nearly seven weeks after it
was started accidentally by a campfire.

Even so, residents praised the latest plan for battling the Flick
Creek fire, despite loss of their thriving tourism trade.

''I think with what we have done and where we're going, we have a good
plan for the next few days with the fire,'' said Cliff Courtney, who
operates Stehekin Valley Ranch.

Early Wednesday, winds pushed the fire beyond Imus Creek, forcing fire
managers to put everyone in the entire Stehekin Valley on notice they
might have to leave. That notice affects about 100 residents, up from
the previous 60.

The outlook Wednesday was for cooler temperatures in the 70s, but
westerly winds of 20 to 25 mph also were forecast, with evening gusts
to 35 mph.

''The gusty winds have to put us into a defensive posture. We're going
to have to be reactive,'' said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mick
Mueller. ''On the other hand, the direction of those winds is in our

North Cascades National Park officials also closed Weaver Point
Campground on the western shore of Lake Chelan for firefighters' use,
Mueller said.

Fire crews could get a break later this week. The National Weather
Service forecast much cooler temperatures and rain Thursday and Friday
for the east slopes of the North Cascades.

Stehekin sits at the northern end of 60-mile-long Lake Chelan in
mountainous northcentral Washington and is reachable only by boat,
float plane, horse or foot. The town is surrounded by wilderness, the
national park and Forest Service land.

Miles of trail and a lack of communication with the outside world --
there is no telephone service -- have made the scenic area a popular

The Flick Creek fire, however, has blackened more than 11 square miles
to within yards of the National Park Service visitor center, a post
office and several other buildings.

Authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation of the boat landing,
effectively halting tourism.

Courtney estimates he is losing $3,000 per day as long as the
mandatory evacuation is in effect. The 35 rooms at his lodge sat empty

''Until this, it was a terrific summer,'' he said.

Kathy Dinwiddie, who rents out four rooms as owner of the Silver Bay
Inn, asked during a meeting Tuesday if there wasn't some creative way
to boat tourists to an alternative area, particularly those tourists
who might like to visit and also be ''entertained watching a national

''As soon as it is reasonable and safe to lift the (evacuation), we
will do that,'' said Bill Paleck, North Cascades National Park
superintendent. ''We appreciate the inconvenience, the financial cost,
the problem this whole thing is creating.''

Residents were far more receptive to fire managers than a day earlier,
when some heatedly criticized efforts to contain a fire that has been
burning for nearly seven weeks. Courtney said he asked some ''pointed
questions'' at that meeting.

''We have some questions that are valid questions,'' he said, adding
that those concerns can be addressed after the fire is out, when fire
managers and residents should conduct a review to learn from any
mistakes and prepare for the future.

Between 75 and 100 firefighters battled the blaze Tuesday, along with
three helicopters that dropped water on hot spots.

A critical problem has been the shortage of firefighters across the
West, said Susan Husari, regional fire management officer for the
National Park Service.

''I've rarely seen resources stretched this thin. There's so many
geographic areas that are so busy simultaneously,'' she said.

Elsewhere in the state:

• Crews continued to build fire lines around the 1,014-acre Polallie
fire, which was 27 percent contained in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Area, about 15 miles northwest of Cle Elum in the central Cascade
Range. Firefighters burned nearby vegetation, and helicopters dropped
water on the perimeter.

• Farther north, more than 1,400 firefighters battled the state's
biggest burn, the Tripod complex, which continued to creep toward the
Canadian border about a quarter-mile away. The blaze has blackened
about 270 square miles, or 172,956 acres, and was 65 percent

• Residents of Mazama remained on notice to evacuate if the Cedar
Creek fire grows. The lightning-caused fire has burned 1,608 acres
southwest of the North Cascades town and but was 40 percent contained.

• Crews monitored the nearby Tatoosh and Van Peak fires, also sparked
by lightning. The Tatoosh fire has consumed 81 square miles, or 52,237
acres, and has burned well into British Columbia, while the Van Peak
fire stood at 1,405 acres about 25 miles northeast of Mazama.

• Nearly 200 firefighters were working the 8,197-acre Tinpan fire in
the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area, which was being allowed to burn
within established boundaries.

• More than 1,000 firefighters battled the lightning-caused Columbia
complex near Dayton in southeastern Washington as fire managers
reopened part of a road to about 70 seasonal cabins. Crews continued
to burn vegetation not yet consumed by the blaze to slow its growth.
The fire has burned 161 square miles, or 103,100 acres, since it
started Aug. 21 and was 80 percent contained.

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