Firefighters have contained three-quarters of the Cold Creek fire as of Wednesday, allowing U.S. Highway 12 to reopen, evacuation notices to be lifted and fewer fire personnel tending to the area.
The Cold Creek fire spans 564 acres with 210 fire personnel working to suppress it, as of Wednesday.
Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team Public Information Officer Mick Mueller said the moisture from recent weather conditions has helped fire crews in containment.
“Without the wind and (with) the wetting rain — anything over a tenth of an inch is considered a wetting rain — it is helping quite a bit,” Mueller said. “So without the wind to push us and test the lines, we’re doing pretty well.”
According to Inciweb, a national incident information database, winds were expected on Wednesday, but as of Wednesday morning they hadn’t showed up, Mueller said, noting the crews working the Cold Creek fire don’t have an incident meteorologist to do spot forecasts on the scene like larger crews have.
“We have to go with more general forecasting,” Mueller said.
And because the area didn’t have a chance to dry out with consistent rain, any wind that does come likely wouldn’t threaten containment much, Mueller said.
The concerns with wind, Mueller said, is falling trees and hazardous debris.
The improving condition of the fire allowed Highway 12 to reopen on Monday, with traffic control working the roadways up until Wednesday, according to Inciweb.
Fire personnel are still warning that drivers should use caution in the area as there is still active fire on both sides of the highway. Loose rock and rolling debris are other hazards that drivers should be cautious of.
Additionally, periodic smoke from the fire may cause reduced visibility for drivers.
At around noon on Tuesday, all of the evacuation notices in the surrounding areas were lifted and residents have begun to return to their homes, according to Inciweb.
On Wednesday, fire crews continued to stabilize the hillside above Highway 12 and contain the fire that spread northwest into the William O. Douglas Wilderness.
Fire personnel are still predicting they will have full containment of the fire by Oct. 15, a date that could change pending weather conditions and other factors, Mueller said.
But as of now, despite improving conditions, there is no reason to change the project containment date, Mueller said.