Sunday, July 21, 2024

Pioneer Fire expected to persist in wilderness, prompting long-term suppression planning

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CHELAN — The Pioneer Fire, which has been burning in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area and on private land since June 8, remained active Tuesday, growing to 3,811 acres and leading to additional evacuations and road closures. Fire officials say the blaze will likely continue burning for an extended period due to the rugged terrain and lack of infrastructure within the wilderness.

Fire activity remained moderate Monday, with the blaze holding between Meadow Creek and Prince Creek. Green fuels and northwesterly winds continued to slow the fire's northward progression. However, the fire is backing downslope into Prince Creek to the south, with potential for spotting across the drainage where the ridge slopes down to the lakeshore.

Chelan County Emergency Management has expanded the Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation order from just north of Moore Point south to Canoe Creek. A Level 2 (Be Prepared) evacuation order is now in place from Canoe Creek down lake to Lone Fir Creek, while a Level 1 (Stay Alert) order has been issued from Lone Fir Creek to Safety Harbor. Up lake, a Level 2 evacuation order remains in effect from north of Moore Point to Flick Creek Campground, with a Level 1 order extending to the Fourmile Creek camping area.

Firefighters have completed structure protection prep work at Meadow Creek and continue their efforts at Moore Point. Planning is underway to establish a spike camp at Stehekin to support activities to the north. Structure protection prep work around Canoe Creek is expected to be completed Tuesday.

An official closure of the Grade Creek (8200) Road is pending, with gates to be closed at several junctions to allow heavy equipment operations to improve the road and create a safe route for fire vehicles and equipment approaching from the southeast. The work is expected to take about eight days. Heavy equipment is also working to remove snow and reopen an old dozer line along Coyote Ridge, while hand crews build line down to the Lake Chelan shoreline.

A total of 378 personnel and 8 aircraft are currently assigned to the Pioneer Fire. Aviation resources logged 18.5 flight hours Sunday, transporting water, cargo, and conducting reconnaissance flights and water drops along the north and south flanks.

Temperatures are expected to climb gradually through the end of the week, with winds shifting from the northwest to southeast on Wednesday, which may affect fire behavior.

The cause of the Pioneer Fire remains under investigation.

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