Weather Aids Snake River Fire Crews


Fire officials hope weekend conditions don’t worsen the blaze. 

With help from the weather, firefighters are starting to gain headway on the massive Snake River Complex Fire that began in Garfield County and jumped the Snake River on Tuesday.

As of Friday afternoon the fire was 70 percent contained and had scorched an estimated 11,362 acres of dry grass, brush and standing wheat.

“If the weather doesn’t hurt us we will be looking good,” Public Information Officer Megan Hill said. “If all goes well we’re looking through the weekend to button it up … if weather doesn’t cause us problems.”

Hill said winds calmed down Thursday and allowed crews to better contain the fire, but that may not be the case throughout the weekend as a Red Flag Warning was issued by the National Weather Service for southeastern Washington from 2 p.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Andrew Kalin, a meteorologist with the NWS in Spokane, said dry thunderstorms could spark additional wildland fires, and gusty winds are forecast for southeastern Washington, but they aren’t expected to reach the fire area.

Hill said the blaze could become more aggressive and spread and blacken more land if the wind picks up and pushes the fire.

Hill said temperatures rose Thursday morning and the fire made a run up the canyon, jumped containment lines and began to torch a wheat field on the Garfield County side of the river. Containment lines were pushed back to contain the fire, but not before some 500 acres of the wheat turned into smoke and ash. Hill couldn’t confirm exactly how many acres of standing wheat and other crops were lost.

She said no buildings other than a barn that burned Tuesday have been lost and no firefighters have been seriously injured. Four were taken to local hospitals for heat-related injuries.

More than 300 firefighters are battling the blaze on the ground, and another six fixed-wing air tankers and five helicopters are dumping water and retardant from the air.

“A lot of it is mop up” she said. “Night crew didn’t see a lot of fire, but the environment for fire is worse during the day.”

“It’s more of a make sure it doesn’t start again type of deal,” Hill added. “When you mop up you’re looking for smoldering spots and stump holes. If you have a piece of sagebrush that’s burnt, there’s usually a root system that could be smoldering underground, which could start the whole thing over again.”

 Via the Daily News