Monday update: Fire crews respond to brush fire in Cape Horn area
August 4, 2022
Monday, August 8, evening update:
There was some good news Monday evening from the Department of Natural Resources after crews spent the day fighting the Cape Horn fire, about five miles east of Cathlamet.
“They are still out there working,” Jeff Bortner, the Wildland Fire District Manager for the Department of Natural Resources Pacific Cascade Region said. “They are calling it 40 percent contained, and anticipating at least one more full day out there working on it. But things are going well and they’re progressing.”
Crews have put tens of thousands of gallons of water on the fire between the helicopters, the tenders, and the engines that are working the scene.
“I’m not going to say there is no threat, but the threat has been greatly reduced and will continue to deteriorate over time as we continue to work it,” Bortner said. "We had that strong onshore flow today, which brings that moist air, some cloud cover, and cooler temperatures. Those are all things that help us be more successful and help put out the fire naturally in addition to the firefighter effort.”
Personnel worked the first fifty feet from the perimeter of the five to 10 acre fire with water, Bortner said, and while there is still mop up or overhaul work to be done and residual heat remains, most of that is not on the fire’s perimeter, but towards the center.
“We try to make all our fires 100 percent mopped up,” Bortner said. “No visible smoke and no heat to the touch. They are not at that standard yet, but they are at a place where the threat of the fire getting outside of the perimeter and causing issues is very marginal.”
Because the fire is in a good place, it will not be staffed overnight, which Bortner explained was a common practice.
“They’ve worked the edges very hard. There shouldn’t be any issues,” he said. “If people see something that causes concern they should call 911 and someone will go check on it.”
Crews will return in the morning.
As for the cause, Bortner said that the DNR’s fire investigators were working with the Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Office and that some evidence had been collected.
“We are still waiting for official cause to be released,” Bortner said.
Monday, August 8, morning update:
There was no change to the Cape Horn fire overnight, but the cooler weather is making it a little easier on crews working at the scene Monday morning.
“The fire has stayed in the same footprint as last night,” Jeff Bortner, the Wildland Fire District Manager for the Department of Natural Resources Pacific Cascade Region said this morning. “There is no growth. Crews are continuing to secure the fire perimeter and beginning their control options there and mopping up the fire perimeter today.”
“The fire is looking good,” he continued. “They’ve got five engines and two of our correctional crews working it today. We have several helicopters available should they need to come back and help out.”
The Cape Horn fire, which is along SR 4 about five miles east of Cathlamet, was 100 percent hand lined but still not contained as of 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 7.
A spot fire crossed the line of the original 5-10 acre fire sometime this afternoon and had grown to about a half acre in size, according to Jeff Bortner, the Wildland Fire District Manager for the Department of Natural Resources Pacific Cascade Region, who continues to be optimistic.
“The fire is going well,” he said. “They’re still working to get containment on the fire, but we are progressing toward that. There are two helicopters working the fire right now and they are working to get a new line around those spot fires.”
Bortner explained that a fire is not considered contained until crews are able to get water to it with hose lay. Crews have been hand lining, which he said was a typical wild land fire suppression tactic to remove fuels from the fire by cutting a line with hand tools or equipment to get to the bare mineral soil. They then lay a hose on top of that to cool the edge, progressing in to mop up the fire.
“The edge is still hot to our hand line,” Bortner said. “We can still get spots across it, like the half acre one.”
The fire will be staffed overnight.
“We will continue to monitor it and will hit it hard again tomorrow with resources as well,” Bortner said.
There are currently no structures listed as under evacuation.
Bortner advised people to exercise extra caution while traveling through the area for the foreseeable future.
“The vegetation has been holding the landscape in place,” he said. “Once fire disturbs a landscape, especially a landscape that steep, things will fall and roll down into the road.”
DNR is working with the Washington State Department of Transportation on a timeline for fully re-opening the SR 4 in the Cape Horn area.
Around 1 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, a brush fire was reported in the Cape Horn area, about five miles east of Cathlamet along SR 4.
According to Jeff Bortner, Wildland Fire District Manager for the Department of Natural Resources Pacific Cascade Region, resources arrived on scene to find a fire burning up the steep hillside.
Crews began initial suppression action, but with low visibility due to the time of day, trees, and rocks falling down the hillside, they decided to wait for better light.
“As of this morning we’ve had resources on it including a strike team of DNR engines,” Bortner said, “some fire district support as well, three DNR helicopters have been working the fire, and three inmate crews have been assigned as well.”
Bortner said crews are progressing hand line up both sides of the fire, which is being supported by hose lay and bucket drops.
The fire is estimated to be 5-10 acres, and is currently considered zero percent contained and zero percent controlled.
Bortner explained that when a fire is 100 percent contained, it is not expected to get any bigger. When it’s 100 percent controlled, no more suppression action is needed, and the fire should no longer pose any risk. Even when the fire is out, DNR will continue to monitor the area for some time to make sure there are no pockets of heat.
“It’s pretty rough terrain, they are working to get around it,” Bortner said.
He said they were making good progress and expected to be successful with their tactical plan barring any unforeseen challenges.
“I anticipate having some containment later on today,” Bortner said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The highway was closed until 8 a.m. Sunday morning. It has since reopened, and officials ask that drivers slow down in the work zone for safety of crew in the area.