The Big Hollow Fire burning in the southwestern region of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest was 15 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The wildfire, which is 15 miles northwest of Carson and 7 miles southeast of Cougar, had grown to 22,153 acres by Tuesday night. The amount of people and pieces of equipment being used to suppress the fire continues to increase, the Forest Service said.
On Tuesday, crews suppressed a new fire that sparked and could have threatened containment lines in the Trapper Creek Wilderness area. The number of firefighters increased at Road 57 as they resumed setting backfires to burn vegetation within the fire’s control line. Heavy equipment was used to clear roads S-1000 and S-6000 and to limit fire spreading south of Canyon Creek.
Firefighters removed fuels in the Wind River drainage and burned a control line east of Road 64 and north of Road 201 to stem the spread east of Wind River Highway. They’ve also cleared and secured areas around structures at Government Mineral Springs, the Forest Service said.
Much of that work was anticipated to resume Wednesday. Structures south of the fire are being monitored, and vegetation is being cleared on the Trapper Creek Trail.
In all, there are 367 people working to keep the wildfire under control, consisting of 10 “hand crews,” who carry out the physical labor of removing burnable vegetation; 13 fire engines, some of which are used to patrol the wilderness’ roads for spot fires; three dozers; and a single water tender.
The Forest Service reported that a helicopter is also available, but fire operations officials said during a community briefing Tuesday evening that it’s unlikely aircraft will be used to drop water. Incident Commander Jeff Dimke said a helicopter tried to reach the Big Hollow Fire from Wenatchee but had to turn back due to smoke. The conditions make using a helicopter for suppression dangerous, and if one is used, it will be for monitoring purposes and to get a better understanding of the fire’s behavior and size.
Some smoke and morning fog are forecasted for the area Wednesday, with temperatures near the mid-70s and winds of up to 10 mph. Meteorologist Bob Tobin said the next chance for rain over the wildfire will be Thursday and Friday.
The cabins at Government Mineral Springs remain under a Level 3 “Go” evacuation order. Crews have installed sprinklers in the area to try to protect structures.
Areas north and west of the fire remain under a Level 1 “Get ready” evacuation order, including Yale, Cougar, Northwoods and portions of the towns of Amboy and Yacolt. Level 2 “Get set” evacuation orders in areas northwest of the fire were downgraded to Level 1 over the weekend.
Closures in the southwest portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest remain in effect and include most developed campgrounds, dispersed camping, and most forest roads and trails. The Washington Department of Natural Resources has issued closures for the Siouxon Block and Merrill Lake Natural Conservation Area. The Pacific Crest Trail is open.