Anyone who looked to the north during daylight hours this week might have thought Mount Adams, the dormant volcano, had come back to life.
Giant plumes of smoke, sometimes moving in opposite directions as heat vaulted smoke into differing air currents, could have easily created the illusion. And, according to the latest reports, we can expect more of the same for some time to come.
The latest incident commander report of the Cascade Creek fire burning on the southern flank of Mount Adams lists 5,080 acres burned, with 579 personnel assigned to the firefighting efforts. Containment remains at zero percent, as of Friday morning.
“The fire more than doubled” the number of acres burned in a 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday mornings, said Fire Information Officer Ken Sandusky.
“The fire is burning in areas of heavy fuel — spruce budworm- killed trees. Most of the growth is on the upslope of the mountain in the wilderness area. Until we get a change in the weather, it is hard to predict containment,” said Sandusky.
According to Sandusky, containment is the gauge of confidence fire managers have the fire will stay within existing control lines, not simply the amount of the fire that has control line on it.
Rapid fire growth, crown fire, plume development, group torching, and spotting are all active fire behaviors noted by the incident commander.
“We do have a relatively strong confidence on the southern perimeter line,” said Sandusky. That is line of the fire that threatened inhabited areas near Trout Lake.
“The Aiken Lava Bed, to the east of the fire, is a good natural barrier to the east where the other highest priority is keeping the fire from moving onto the Yakama Nation, state and private lands,” added Sandusky. “The fire is also pushing up against the tree line on the mountain. Cascade Creek between Stagman and Crofton ridges is a good anchor point and natural barrier on the west edge of the fire.”
The fire is currently burning within three miles (southeast) of the Pacific Crest Trail, with the possibility of closure of the trail by the weekend. Earlier in the week, forest service workers already evacuated numerous hikers and campers from the area.
Easterly winds have been pushing smoke over the Cascade Mountain Range into the I-5 corridor between Kelso and Centralia, generating many 9-1-1 calls.
“We have also had smoke plumes moving in different directions at the same time,” said Sandusky. “The heat of the fire was so intense it was sending some smoke up into a different air stream and we had smoke moving east to west at ground level and west to east up above.”
According to incident commanders, firefighting strategy will change from direct to indirect attack on the hottest portions of the fire. Warmer and drier temperatures are expected throughout the weekend, with increasing winds, continuing less than favorable weather conditions.
The Cascade Creek Fire began approximately nine miles north of Trout Lake, Wash. The fire was started by lightning on Sept. 8 from a storm that started more than 200 wildfires across eastern Washington.
Pacific Crest Trail hikers and others affected by fire activity may call the Mt. Adams Ranger District Office at 509-395-3400 for more information or visit InciWeb.org.