The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Three Tuesday fires keep responders busy


March 28, 2019

By Diana Zimmerman

Fire season started a little early and a little too close to home this year.

Last Tuesday, March 19, local firefighters and personnel from the Department of Natural Resources responded to three fires in Wahkiakum County, which all began that afternoon.

The Elochoman Complex fire and the Deep River fire are out, Wahkiakum County Undersheriff Gary Howell said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Wildwood Lane fire, which started as a controlled burn, got out of control and grew to 77 acres at its largest, is listed as 100 percent contained.

“There will still be a little smoldering in the rocks,” Sheriff Mark Howie said. “DNR will be keeping an eye on if for a couple months, but currently there is no active firefighting.”

“If the wind kicks up and it dries out right, it could flare up again,” Howell cautioned.

Local fire departments including District 4 and Skamokawa initially responded to the Wildwood Fire, but DNR took over later that day. They brought in two helicopters to drop water and dozens of crew members last week to fight the fire that rose up the rocky terrain above SR 4 five miles east of Cathlamet.

It was one of two fires that DNR handled in the county, and one of 20 they were handling in the state, Howell was told.

“DNR did a great job of keeping us briefed,” Howie said.

The Deep River fire also began as a controlled burn before catching a grass field on fire. The Grays River Fire Department responded and a crew from the Naselle Fire Department showed up to help put it out.

It has not yet been determined how the Elochoman Complex fire was started on state lands around Bradley Trails.

A burn ban went into effect because of the three fires, but it was lifted after a wetting rain on Monday.

With a long fire season ahead, Sheriff Howie is asking residents to be mindful of burn permit rules.

Be aware of fire sizes and what size is allowed at the time. A large fire might be banned and small fires might be okay.

He also says that the rules include a phone call to the sheriff’s office to report when a burn is planned.

“Always call when you are going to burn,” Howie said. “By law you are supposed to.”

If three or four local residents had followed the rules last week, they would have made the call and learned about the burn ban. Instead they learned it the hard way when law enforcement or someone from the fire department showed up at their homes and waited while they extinguished their burns.


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