Okanogan Complex Fire
|Okanogan Complex Fire|
Smoke from the fire on August 25
|Location||Okanogan County, Washington|
|Date(s)||August 15, 2015– September 19, 2015|
|Burned area||304,782 acres (123,341 ha) as of August 30|
|120 destroyed homes|
The Okanogan Complex Fire was a wildfire affecting Okanogan County in north-central Washington state. It was composed of five fires that were caused by lightning strikes on August 15, 2015, with two of the fires near Conconully merging days later on August 19. At its peak, it burned over 304,782 acres (123,341 ha) of land and forced the evacuations of numerous towns, including Conconully, Twisp and Winthrop. Over 1,250 firefighters were deployed to the Okanogan Complex. Three United States Forest Service firefighters were killed in an accident near Twisp on August 19. Traditional methods of containing such wildfires, such as creating bulldozer lines, were not readily available due to the irregular terrain and because an inversion layer trapped smoke in the valley, making it difficult to fly in water by helicopter.
On August 24, some media outlets reported that it had become the largest wildfire in Washington state history, surpassing the Carlton Complex fire of 2014. The Okanogan Complex fire did not merge into a single fire, and so the Carlton Complex remains the state's largest single fire.
By August 25 more help was arriving and no more structures had burned. However, nearly all the fires had continued "to grow with little containment gained" and higher winds were predicted by the end of the week that would feed the flames. On August 25, 2015 there were 1,345 firefighters and 15 percent of the fire had been contained.
By September 19, the fire was 95% contained and management was turned over to local firefighters.
Twisp River fire
The Twisp River Fire was one of the five fires that comprised the Okanogan Complex Fire. It was reported on August 19 at 12:23 Pacific Daylight Time. The fire started when tree branches struck a nearby powerline. By 06:00 hours on August 20, it was reported to be 7,231 acres and had reached the outskirts of Twisp, Washington. The fire's final reported acreage on August 26 was 11,922 acres.
Fatalities and entrapment
After units responded to the fire, winds suddenly changed and the fire more than doubled in size in approximately 15 minutes. Three Forest Service (FS) fatalities and one critical injury occurred on Engine 642. Two Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees and a contract dozer operator were also entrapped in the fire but survived with minor injuries; all three sought refuge in a garage and then later deployed their fire shelters. Several other engines encountered severe fire conditions.
- "Okanogan Complex Update - August 30". InciWeb (Press release). National Wildfire Coordinating Group. August 30, 2015. Archived from the original on September 1, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
- Camp, Dee (August 18, 2015). "Conconully ordered to evacuate". The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
- Geranios, Nicholas K.; Skoloff, Brian (August 24, 2015). "Okanogan wildfire is now largest in state history". KOMO-TV. Associated Press. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
- Camp, Dee (August 19, 2015). "Three firefighters killed in Twisp blaze". The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
- Bush, Evan (August 24, 2015). "Okanogan Complex wildfire now biggest in state history". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
- Fieldstadt, Elisha (August 24, 2015). "Okanogan Complex: Washington Wildfire Is Now Largest in State History". NBC News. Associated Press. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
- Riggs, Dee (August 26, 2015). "Carlton Complex is still the largest, single fire in state history". The Wenatchee World. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- Michelle McNiel (August 25, 2015). "Fires continue to grow, but not as fast". Wenatchee, Washington: The Wenatchee World. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- Natalie Swaby (August 25, 2015). "Heat, winds a concern as firefight continues". KING 5 News and Associated Press. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- "Corrected Okanogan Complex Update 9-19-2015". InciWeb. National Wildfire Coordinating Group. September 19, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- "Okanogan complex largest fire in Washington history". Wildfire Today. August 25, 2015.
The complex is now made up of what were five fires — the Twisp River fire, the Lime Belt fire, the Beaver Lake fire, the Blue Lake fire and the Tunk Block fire. The Lime Belt, Beaver Lake and Blue Lake fires have merged, according to the latest perimeter information from the U.S. Forest Service.
- "Twisp river fire fatalities and entrapments: learning review narrative". FRAMES Resource Catalog.
- United States Department of Agriculture. 2016. Twisp river fire fatalities and entrapments: learning review narrative. 44 p. This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of Agriculture.
- Marcy Stamper (July 20, 2018). "Injured firefighter in Twisp fire sues electric cooperative". HeraldNet.com. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
- InciWeb profile
- Wildfire Stories: Framing a Complicated Relationship, an Arcadia article about wildfires, amongst them the Okanogan Complex, on the Environment and Society Portal