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News / Clark County News

Cowlitz Complex fire burns 589 acres; rain just not enough to help

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 1, 2023, 2:31pm

Wet conditions settled over the region and provided relief for personnel addressing the Cowlitz Complex Fire, but it wasn’t enough to extinguish any of its dozens of burns.

Jared Hohn, incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Area Complex management team, reported early Friday that the fires will likely persist for a few months until the seasons change. The Cowlitz Complex Fire, encompassing roughly 589 acres, is about 5 percent contained.

“The dense forest canopy prevents most moisture from reaching the dry surface fuels, and a thick layer of organic material conceals fire burning at depth,” Hohn wrote.

A storm late last week saw about 1,500 lightning strikes throughout the region, igniting more than 40 fires in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The network of fires is mostly located in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, the northernmost portion of the forest, giving it its name — though some of the burns are near the southwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park.

Crews are gaining access and creating containment lines around the fires, allowing them to mop up the blazes — extinguishing them or removing burning material near a control line. When this is complete, personnel will monitor and patrol the sites as crews shift their attention to other fires.

More than 400 workers are assigned to the Cowlitz Complex Fire.

Wet, relieving conditions are forecast to taper off as dry and warm weather sets in during the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Portland. However, another cool front is anticipated to slip into the region Monday.

Further updates on the Cowlitz Complex Fire, as well as trail and road closures, can be found at www.inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident-information/wagpf-cowlitz-complex.

Open fires are prohibited across the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Further fire restrictions can be found on the U.S. Forest Service’s website, www.fs.usda.gov/main/giffordpinchot/fire.

For more information about the Cowlitz Complex Fire, call 360-208-8075 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or email 2023.cowlitzcomplex@firenet.gov.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff writer