Persistent cool weather and heavy rain expected midweek in the area of the Big Hollow Fire has prompted a shifting of teams managing the fire’s spread in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
The wildfire, which is 15 miles northwest of Carson and 7 miles southeast of Cougar, burned another 479 acres over the weekend, bringing the total acreage scorched to 24,788, or 38.7 square miles.
Monday’s weather was forecasted to be cool with some light precipitation; heavier rainfall is predicted to reach the area Wednesday and stay through Saturday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Northwest Team 12 planned to transition off the fire Monday evening and will be replaced by two Type 3 teams, the Forest Service said. For much of the time since the fire started Sept. 8, Type 2 firefighter teams have worked to confine the fire using roads in the forest and suppress spot fires. The strategy was never full suppression due to some extreme terrain and few people regularly inhabiting the fire zone.
Team types are defined by their complexity. Type 1 teams respond to the most severe of fires while Type 5 teams could mean a single fire engine responding to a tree struck by lightning.
Transitioning to two Type 3 teams is a recognition by officials that the Big Hollow Fire’s activity has diminished, said Joel Brumm, a public information officer for the wildfire.
“At this point in the season, with seasonal rains coming in, we don’t need as many resources,” Brumm said. “Crews will continue to monitor and patrol.”
The level 1 “Get ready” evacuation orders that included Yale, Cougar, Northwoods and portions of the towns of Amboy and Yacolt have been dropped.
A level 3 “Go” evacuation order remains in place for the cabins at Government Mineral Springs.
Closures in the southwest portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest remain in place 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.
On Sunday, crews completed a control line behind the guard station at Government Mineral Springs. Another control line was finished along the north and east sides of the fire. Heavy equipment was moved from the S-1000 and S-6000 roads to another part of the fire, the Forest Service said.
“Fire crews are carefully watching the fire in case it backs down toward the Wind River Highway and are prepared to suppress and hold the fire if it reaches the highway. At Government Mineral Springs, fire crews are continuing to patrol and monitor the situation. All other portions of the fire are in (a) patrol and monitor stage, with some cleanup still being finished,” officials said of Monday’s planned operations.
The Type 3 teams will be assigned to the east and west sides of the fire.