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News / Sports / Outdoors

Gold Rush Fire grows to 60 acres, burning east of Dougan Falls

Expert timber fallers brought in to help in remote steep terrain

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: August 17, 2015, 5:00pm
2 Photos
Timber fallers contracted with the state Department of Natural Resources assist with tree falling at a fire near Dougan Falls Tuesday morning.
Timber fallers contracted with the state Department of Natural Resources assist with tree falling at a fire near Dougan Falls Tuesday morning. Photo Gallery

A fire burning near Dougan Falls in western Skamania County grew slightly since igniting at midday Monday. Some roads have been closed, leading fire managers to ask would-be visitors to stay away for now.

Clark County Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy, who has been working as a public information officer at the blaze, said Tuesday afternoon that the Gold Rush Fire’s footprint has grown from 45 acres to 60 acres — not quite a tenth of a square mile.

The fire is about 3 1/2 miles past Dougan Falls on Forest Road 2000, in a remote area about 12 miles northeast of Washougal.

That road, past the end of Washougal River Road, is closed, Dawdy said, and fire managers are asking people to avoid the area in general in order to stay out of the way of fire traffic.

No structures are threatened.

Although fire activity has calmed since the 30-foot-tall flames seen Monday, Dawdy said the roughly 90 firefighters on site were still encountering open flames.

“We’re in a much better situation,” Dawdy said, although Tuesday was very warm, and east winds were expected.

What sparked the fire is still under investigation, he said, but it was more than likely human-caused.

“I know there was rain a few days ago, but this is real illustrative that fire season is not over,” Dawdy said. “We don’t know what caused this fire, but we do think it was human carelessness.”

The fire is burning in logging slash in an area that was cut three or four years ago, said Mary McDonald, a state lands assistant with the Department of Natural Resources who is also acting as a fire information officer.

The terrain is steep, making flames more likely to spread. Firefighters on Monday had the help of two helicopters dumping water on the fire’s top end.

On Tuesday, firefighters had help from two expert contract tree fallers: Mark Schubert of Cathlamet and Ty Wood of Salkum, in Lewis County.

McDonald said both men are experienced timber fallers, the kind the DNR or other firefighting agencies will hire to help lay down trees beyond the skill or comfort level of firefighters at the scene. Sometimes the trees are still on fire.

“The fallers go through and make it safe for the firefighters to go in and put out the fire,” she said. “These guys, there’s not very many of them.”

Columbian environment and transportation reporter