Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Nash Fire Update, September 5

Nash Fire Update
Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8,
Incident Commander, Doug Johnson
September 5, 2017 - 9:00 AM
Fire Information Line: 541-316-7711
Size: 4,862 acres
Percent Contained: 0%
Cause: Lightning
Personnel: 70
Email: nashfire17@gmail.com
Website: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5580/#
Blog: http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @CentralORFire
Travel Information: tripcheck.com or call 511
Closures: www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/deschutes/alerts-notices
You Tube Channel: https://goo.gl/SRRAr3 (Milli and Nash Fire updates)

This will be the last update from the Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8 (NWIIMT8).  NWIIMT8 would like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to the community, cooperators, agency staff, and firefighters for the unwavering support during our management of the Nash Fire.

An easterly wind yesterday brought some relief to the dense smoke that has covered Central Oregon.  Fires across the western states have contributed to the smoke impacts here in Oregon. With storms forecasted to move through the area, Wednesday through Friday, expect smoke to stay lighter with cooler temperatures and some thunderstorms with precipitation to develop.

Central Oregon is experiencing extreme dry conditions, residents and visitors need to be extremely cautious when outdoors. Campfires are banned on both private and public lands, violators will be cited.

Fire Information: The fire is a result of a lightning storm in early August which generated numerous fires throughout the Cascades Range in Oregon and Washington.  The Nash Fire is burning in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area along the crest of the Cascades on the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. 
Air Quality: Air quality forecasted for the Sisters areas are in the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy range. People sensitive to poor air quality should take the necessary precaution to avoid exposure while those needing to work outdoors should limit heavy outdoor exertion. Information is available at: http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com and https://airnow.gov
Incident Management: Currently the Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8, Doug Johnson, Incident Commander is managing and supporting the fire fighters of the Nash and Milli Fires. The incident command post (ICP) is located at the Sisters Rodeo Grounds in Sisters, Oregon. Wednesday morning NIIMT8 will transfer command of the Nash Fire to the Southwest Team 1. Milli Fire command will go back to the Deschutes National Forest.
Weather: Today’s forecast is partially cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms after 4 pm.  Gusty, east ridge-top winds will continue through this morning and then decrease. The forecast above 5,000 ft elevation calls for temperatures 84 – 88 degrees, relative humidity 15 – 19%, and ridgetop winds east 10 – 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph then becoming northeast 5-10 mph with gusts to 15 mph.
A Red Flag Warning (which means critical fire weather conditions exist in the area) remains in effect over Central Oregon for hot, dry, and unstable conditions the remainder of today. The combination of the Red Flag Warning and the consecutive lack of overnight relative humidity recovery could cause any ignition source on dry fuels to start a wildfire. Forest visitors are reminded to stay vigilant and “know before you go”.
Update Fire: Fire managers have made plans to respond in the event the fire moves out of the Three Sisters Wilderness. The primary concern is if the fire was to move to the southeast out of the Wilderness through vegetative timber stringers, the fire could impact the Elk Lake area. Firefighters and equipment continue fuels reduction for fire protection around the Elk Lake resort, 40 plus recreation residences and historic Elk Lake Guard Station at Elk Lake yesterday.  Fire crews are removing low limbs, clearing brush, removing dense fuels and forest litter away from structures, as well as putting in pumps, hose and sprinklers.  The structure protection group continued prep work both north and south of Elk Lake along the Cascade Lakes Highway. Clearing brush and reducing fuels to prepare for burn out operations if needed to hold the fire on the west side of the road.
The Nash and nearby Separation Fires burned very actively yesterday being pushed by strong east winds.  The active burning continued overnight causing a bright glow to be seen on the horizon. Firefighters monitored the movement through-out the night. The eastern edge of the fire has burned to the shoulder of The Wife (peak) and is close to burning to the Wickiup Plains. Air resources were used by fire management yesterday to monitor the fires growth and fire activity.
Evacuations: The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with fire managers, has placed a Level 2 (Set) evacuation notice for the areas surrounding the Elk Lake and Hosmer Lake including Elk Lake Resort, Elk Lake Guard Station, Elk Lake Campground(CG), Point CG, Mallard CG, Sunset View Day Use area, Beach Day Use Area, and Quinn Meadow’s Horse Camp  and a Level 1 (Ready) evacuation notice for the areas surrounding Lava Lake and Little Lava Lake including Lava Lake Resort, Lava Lake CG, and Little Lava Lake CG.  Current maps including the evacuation areas can be found at https://arcg.is/D9OPi

Trail closures are in place: Closed trails include: Wickiup Plains, South Sister/Devil’s Lake, Green Lakes, Sisters Mirror Lake, Elk Lake, and PCT from Irish and Taylor Lake north to Olallie Lake.  PCT Trail Angels will be at Cultus Lake to help hikers. Information can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/deschutes/alerts-notices


  1. Last update ? Why would that be when the fires still are active ? I notice that there are also no recent updates on the Youtube Channel either. Folks have been depending on your updates for the best information.

    1. Hello Bob,
      The team that was originally assigned to both the Milli left and a team came in to take over the Milli and the Nash. That team did not have the capacity to create videos (we are very short on resources right now) and chose to focus on the Update, Inciweb and what we refer to as the "trapline" or posting information in areas impacted by the incidents. Now that team will be leaving both incident and a Type 3 Team will be taking command of the Milli. Unfortunately, we have been shifting teams a little bit because of the needs across the Region. The new team assigned to the Nash Fire will be a team lead by Bea Day, Southwest Area Team 1. They are currently assigned to the Willamette National Forest managing a number of incidents over there and will add an Operations Section Chief specifically in charge of the Nash Fire.
      If you have any questions, we encourage you to call our Fire Information number at 541-316-7711 and we will be happy to provide you with any information you need.
      Thanks for your patience--
      Kassidy Kern, Public Information Officer

    2. Nash fire was already led by Bea Day up until just a few days ago when it was transferred to Milli fire command. That was a good move because it finally got some attention and some information started to get out. It was critical for management to be actually located on the east side.

  2. I loved the videos. Really appreciated the effort and helped me understand the complexity. Just saying thanks for doing them. I know the fire crews are slammed. Linda English

  3. Thanks so much for your clarification Kassidy. With so many various demands, I can only imagine how complicated crew logistics must be. Still, it was encouraging to locals when the responsibility for the fire closest to us, and which impacts Bend the most, was transferred to a team that was already based here on the east side, if only for a few days. For those in Bend, the high quality of information that was flowing from the Milli gang was a matter for encouragement, as they were actually here, and working up a plan of attack. Now that they are no longer in charge, and despite statements made a few days ago, apparently there has yet to be any direct action taken against Nash, I suspect others may also be concerned to find that responsibility for what's beginning to seem like Bend's orphan-fire Nash has now been shifted back west, and back to Willamette yet again, where they may now have to scramble to work up a plan of their own.

    1. Hey Bob,
      I've appreciated the feedback because I'm trying to address your questions with an eye to the idea that others have them too. I'll let you know this now but will also post later--
      There's a Branch of the Willamette team that is compromised of local firefighters and an Operations Section Chief that is currently spike camped at Elk Lake and will soon be based at Wanoga Sno-Park. Crewed are continuing to prep Cascade Lakes Highway as a hold point and that work will continue for several days so there's a great need for them to be close to the fire area and Wanoga is a good place to stage. Because of the level of investment we currently have at Elk Lake, there are also individuals staged there. I'll write up a post to that effect later today.
      Thanks for the comments--
      Kassidy Kern Public Information Officer

    2. Thanks once again Kassidy ! It's easy for the public to get confused about who's doing what in regards to the Nash fire. I must admit though, I'm still waiting to hear what the strategy is going to be, regarding the fire itself. A few days ago a welcomed decision was apparently made to take direct action against Nash, back where it's living, rather than just letting it burn down to the highway. But that strategy has been abandoned, and we're back to seeing the short span of distance between the Wilderness Boundary and Century Drive as the main line of defense again ? It's good that steps are being taken to protect private and public structures, but a number of the back country lakes in the path of the fire are frequently visited by tourists and residents too, and would seem to qualify as resources of value as well. The statement regarding direct action gave some hope that those resources might be protected too, as well as serving to slow the fire down, but without any apparent direct action yet, it's difficult for the public to get a sense of what current intentions really are.

    3. Unfortunately, the only direct action we would be able to take is with bucket work from helicopters on hot spots. I'm not sure if you're familiar with this area but it has been described to me as incredibly steep and narrow. That's not a place for us to put firefighters to begin constructing line on a fire with approximately 200 feet flame lengths and occasional thick smoke inversions. So the direct attack would be buckets, indirect would be creating a "box" around the fire to catch it and that's really what we're doing now with the line prep of Cascade Lakes Highway.

      I also want to assure you that this is not an orphan or forgotten fire. It's the highest priority of our forest, but currently, there are 28 fires or complexes in Oregon and Washington. Across the nation, there are 137 large fires and every single wildland firefighting team and nearly 28,000 firefighters are deployed. Without question each of these fires or complexes needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, we do have limits on the resources available to fight all of these fires. The Deschutes National Forest and those involved in managing the Nash Fire recognize the important values at risk in the backcountry just as you recognize those values. We are taking all the actions we can on the fire so that we can safely and effectively protect those values at risk with the resources that are available to us. We recognize that the Three Sisters Wilderness is indeed a national treasure. We, too, want it to stay that way.

      We are hoping to have the opportunity to reach out more to the community with information on the Nash Fire through public meetings and social media in the very near future. Stay tuned.

    4. Hey Kassidy,

      Yes, I am familiar with that area. The Separation Creek area where the fires originally started is awfully rugged, but the area between Rock Mesa and Sister's Mirror Lakes and Century Drive are areas where people frequently hike (Trails starting at Devils Lake) and have always seemed to me to be more moderate and accessible.

      As I understand, one of the main issues holding things back has been the smoke, and the resulting difficulties in seeing where the fire is actually located. I know that demands for the IR planes are stretched to their limits as well, and they are not doing night scans anymore ?

      Winds from the east and south, to blow the smoke away from the fire front - Am I right in thinking that that's kind of what everyone's waiting for ?

      Great that this site is being maintained and you guys are keeping the public informed. It's all much more complicated than it may seem to us laymen I know.

    5. There are occasional IR flights when time allows but smoke is not the only thing we are considering at this point for engagement.
      As I mentioned above, this fire is burning really hot in tall trees around Nash Lake and there's no good place for us to put a crew to put in fire line. It is critical, as always, that firefighters have LCES (Lookout, Communication, Escape route and Safety zone). What would be lacking in this scenario is a variety of issues from a consistent lookout to an adequate escape route to get to a safety zone. We've seen a lot of fire activity in areas like Jeff Park that we would've considered more of a safety zone in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, so there's really no good place for firefighters to escape quickly and effectively if this fire decides to make a run. As an aside we are currently under a Red Flag Warning for abundant lightning and gusty outflow winds.
      As I noted below, firefighters need to always have an escape route and a safety zone and if those winds were to push the fire, it is absolutely critical that our firefighters be able to safely disengage. We feel the best place for them to do that at this point is along Cascade Lakes Highway while they prepare the road and structures if the fire makes a run.
      Feel free to call our fire line at 541-316-7711 or the team's fire line at 541-719-8371 if you have more questions or concerns.

  4. Thanks, Bob, for expressing your concerns in a more acceptable way than I attempted a few days ago. Mine "disappeared." I just want to say "ditto...ditto...ditto." I do think that the Nash fire is, and should be considered a Deschutes National Forest fire because that is where most of the fire control activities have to occur. And it should be it's own entity with its own incident command team, not a stripped down spike camp answering to the Willamette team.

  5. Kassidy, I totally understand the decision not to put firefighters safety at risk by placing them in a direct attack or even a distanced attack. Especially without the use of mechanized equipment. So I have this Theoretical question: IF fire managers could have used mechanical equipment (chainsaws, trail builders and the like) in an indirect attack could the loss of at least some of the wilderness backcountry be avoided? As just an example, maybe taking a stand at the PCT to save trail systems to the east.From all reports right now it sounds like your first line of defense is the cascade lks hwy and a sacrifice of the Wilderness back country and the trails.

    1. Chainsaw use in the wilderness is almost always granted when requested for suppression efforts so that would not be an issue. If we had unlimited resources, we might be able to utilize different tactics. Unfortunately, if you read my last comment above you will see that the Deschutes National Forest is one piece on a very large board right now and resources are stretched very thin. And as of right now we are under a Red Flag Warning for abundant lightning and gusty outflow winds. Firefighters need to always have an escape route and a safety zone and if those winds were to push the fire, it is absolutely critical that our firefighters be able to safely disengage. We feel the best place for them to do that at this point is along Cascade Lakes Highway while they prepare the road and structures if the fire makes a run.

  6. Not to beat a dead horse that is being pretty well worked over on other social media sites but theoretically one load from the super tanker on the east edge would sure open a lot of options.

  7. Kassidy, even though you said earlier in this discussion it appears that the Nash fire has been relegated back to the Willamette IC, Bea Day and is being handled the same as we were so frustrated about before the transfer to the Milli IC. Again we are getting no information and even though they say it's being reported separately this mornings Inciweb report would look otherwise. Nash fire should be managed by Deschutes. It looks like it is once again an "Orphan Fire" like Bob J was describing.