UPDATE: Fire danger remains high in Southwest Washington

Published:

Updated: October 7, 2012, 9:24 PM

 

Fire danger remains extremely high and crews Sunday were at the scene of three brush fires in Southwest Washington.

“Clark County is extremely dry,” said the state’s Aaron Schmidt. “Tell folks that this is some of the driest conditions on record. We’re getting fires caused by a tow chain on a trailer that was dragging, and from barbecue briquets left on the ground.”

Any relief possible from Mother Nature?

“The nearest promise of any rain coming in looks like it is as early as Friday but more likely Sunday evening,” said Jon Bonk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. “We’re not out of the woods until we get at least a couple of days of solid rain totaling at least one-half inch or more.”

State Department of Natural Resources crews were at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday. Forty to 60 crew members with five fire engines were putting water on hot spots to ensure Friday night’s fire did not rekindle. The fire burned 140 acres at the Washougal-area refuge.

“There’s no active flames (at Steigerwald),” Schmidt said Sunday afternoon. “There may be some interior smoldering. … With the fire weather we have, we want to make sure we are extra thorough.” He is the DNR’s acting fire operations district manager for Southwest Washington. He said crews with the Forest Service and U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife also were at Steigerwald, which has a popular hiking trail.

Schmidt said crews would use a thermal-imaging camera Sunday night to search for remaining hot spots.

Crews Sunday afternoon also were at a 1-acre brush fire at the north side of Merrill Lake on the 81 Road, about 22 miles east of Woodland. The 344-acre lake is popular with fishermen and has a DNR campground. Three engines and about 30 crew members were at the fire, which is on steep terrain with heavy brush.

“We have it caught, it’s not getting any bigger,” Schmidt said.

At about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, crews also put out an abandoned campfire off the 73 Road near Chelatchie Prairie, Schmidt said. About 10 DNR firefighters extinguished the half-acre fire. Schmidt said, “It could have definitely been bad.”

On Sunday night, brush and grass fires were being reported to 911 officials from both rural and urban spots. None was thought to be substantial.

Crews at 8 p.m. Sunday were trying to find a reported fire near the L1400 and L1000 roads, not far from Larch Corrections Center in far east Clark County. That fire was also considered minor.

Meanwhile, an outdoor burning ban remains in effect until at least Oct. 15.

“It’s so dry that folks really need to be mindful of their actions,” the DNR’s Schmidt said. He said two DNR helicopters are on call in Olympia. He added that perhaps 120 firefighters are at wildfires around Southwest Washington.

The mercury oozed to 77 degrees Sunday at Vancouver’s Pearson Field. High temperatures are expected to be in the 70s today, Bonk of the weather service said.

Humidity (a measure of moisture), is extremely low — in the teens — when it typically would be in the 30s, Bonk said. He expected westerly and northwesterly winds to be 8 to 10 mph today.