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Public meeting of Green Ridge Fire reveals the extent of fire lines

DAYTON-Members of the Northwest Incident Management Team 7 hosted a presentation of the Green Ridge Fire on July 15 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Pavilion. The presentation was also streamed live on Facebook and continues to be available for viewing on the Columbia County Fire District #3 (CCFD) Facebook page.

According to the CCFD, the 467-acre fire (which grew to 595 by the next day) is burning about 13 miles from Dayton and 6.5 miles from Camp Wooten. The much larger 66,000-acre Lick Creek (formerly Dry Gulch) fire is burning 7.5 miles east of Camp Wooten.

UPDATE: As of press deadline, the Green Ridge Fire is 2,086 acres and an estimated 15% contained, with 297 personnel on the attack.

The fires began with a series of lightning strikes overnight on July 6-7. This together with "a historical drought on top of a historical heat wave" which began June 17 and with no end in sight has led to an unprecedented situation according to presenters Jacob LeBaron, Assistant Blue Mountain Unit Fire Manager for Washington DNR whose office is in Dayton and Incident Meteorologist from the National Weather Service, Mary Wister.

Incident Manager, Jason Loomis added that the conditions in the western parts of the United States in general make for an early fire season and resources are in high demand and as a result teams from outside the region are coming in and international help is being called upon.

Because of limited resources, different strategies are being implemented. "We're bringing in everybody we can," LeBaron said. "Just the other day I had an engine roll into Dayton that's now helping prepare for the next thing all the way from North Carolina. They drove up. They showed up with 800 gallons of water. Took them five days to get here. But these guys are doing amazing work–they are working hard; they are working smart."

He went on to say he encourages the community to show a bit of gratitude to the firefighters who are doing their best to protect homes and other property. "The greater fire service is working the best we can to put these fires out," LeBaron added.

Eric Johnson with Fire Behavior and Operations Section Chief Chris Orr said that as the fire approached the old burn areas of Columbia and Grizzly Bear Complexes, the fire is expected to slow and move eastward towards faster burning areas of the wilderness. The current teams' goal is to bring the fire to where it can be more easily fought within the next week or so. After that, other teams will be brought in.

Presently, the fire is burning in very steep terrain burning up and down hillsides. Contingency plans to hold the fire back by preparing along the 4608 and 46 roads are also in place. Other contingency plans are also in place. "We've identified opportunities that can give us that probability for success," said Orr. "But all I can talk is probabilities. It is not a slam dunk this year especially with limited resources." He added they are doing their best with six Type 2 crews and two Type 2 Initial Attack crews.

Local District Ranger, Susan Piper closed the meeting to say the decision was made by the fire staff both locally and on the teams together with law enforcement, to close the entire district to people coming in for safety in case of another ignition and to allow fire services access.

She announced a new fire ignited in the Walla Walla District just that afternoon outside of Troy, now named the Elbow Creek Fire. By the following day the fire grew to 9000 acres and Troy and Eden Bench were evacuated. She said, "For me that is confirmation that we made the right decision. I won't be able to tell when we're going to lift this closure because as you've heard it's only mid-July."

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