Monday, September 28, 2015

More Fire Notes: A bit of the Chelan Complex and Pateros One Year Later

I was not on a fire tour of central and eastern Washington; however, the recent burn areas cover a lot of ground. After my work adventures in central Washington including a site that happened to have been burned over, I headed up Highway 97 along the Columbia River and passed through a portion of the Chelan Complex fire that had expanded well beyond the Chelan area. Bad impacts in Chelan, but the fire ran up the Columbia River valley including crossing over the river.

Fish hatchery below slope up to Chelan

One aspect of some of the burned areas was how thin the fuels were. The slope above is dominantly gravel covered and yet the fire burned hot and got down the slope into the trees and brush just above the hatchery buildings. I noted other burned areas where the fuels appear to be so thin it was hard to tell it had even burned at all.

View of the east side of the Columbia River

The east side of the Columbia River along the river stretch north of Chelan is with the exception of a few remote homes sparsely populated. There is no road on the east side of the river and the ground is very steep so access is minimal. Based on what I saw on the plateau above, the control efforts were above the slope
Dry land burnt over between the terraces where orchards are present and the highway

Approaching Pateros from the south

Pateros was the site of a bad fire in 2014 (very-brief-notes-on-pateros) that burned into the town and destroyed several homes. The slope above the town, now gold grass burned from above and into the town. The fact that the fire managed to get past the irrigated orchards on the high terrace above the town and then burned down the grass slope and burned homes is a bit humbling to think about. Fire, hot days and wind are a bad combination and will require some thought in reducing fire risk in this dry area of central Washington. 

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