Tripod Complex Fire

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Tripod Complex Fire
LocationOkanogan County, Washington, United States
Coordinates48°30′10″N 120°2′26″W / 48.50278°N 120.04056°W / 48.50278; -120.04056Coordinates: 48°30′10″N 120°2′26″W / 48.50278°N 120.04056°W / 48.50278; -120.04056
July 24, 2006–October 2, 2006[2]
Burned area175,184 acres (709 km2)
Non-fatal injuries7
Tripod Complex Fire is located in Washington (state)
Tripod Complex Fire
Location of Tripod Complex Fire in Washington

The Tripod Complex Fire was a wildfire which burned in north-central Washington state in 2006. The complex consisted of two wildfire complexes which later merged into a single fire: the Spur Peak Fire and the Tripod Fire. Both were caused by lightning strikes. The Tripod Complex burned a total area of 175,184 acres (709 km2), making it one of the largest wildfires in Washington history at the time.


Prolonged hot and dry weather, combined with an outbreak of mountain pine beetles and a large number of thunderstorms made the 2006 wildfire season of the most severe in Washington state history.[3][4] The 2006 Pacific Northwest wildfire season began in late June, when an extended thunderstorm followed a three-day heat wave. Between June 27 and July 10, lightning strikes occurred almost daily.[5]

Lightning ignited several wildfires during this period—including the Spur Peak Fire, which was first reported on July 3. Located in the Okanogan National Forest, the fire was deemed fully contained by July 14.[6][7]

A second thunderstorm in late July set off another round of wildfire activity in the region. On July 24, a new fire burning just south of the Spur Peak Fire was reported: the Tripod Fire.[8] Smokejumpers from the North Cascades Smokejumpers base in nearby Winthrop, Washington—11 miles (18 km) from the point of ignition—were quickly dispatched to the fire.[9] Despite early containment efforts, low humidity and gusty winds allowed the Tripod Fire to grow rapidly. The extreme fire weather also re-intensified the previously contained Spur Peak Fire, which crossed control lines on July 27.[6] The two fires converged in late August.[7][10]

In mid-August, a battalion of 550 United States Army soldiers were deployed to fight the Tripod Complex Fire. It was the first time a military battalion had been used to fight a wildfire in the US since 2003.[11][12] By August 23, the Tripod Complex had grown to 200 square miles (518 km2) and around 3,000 firefighters were assigned to the fires. Washington governor Christine Gregoire surveyed the complex by helicopter and later declared a statewide wildfire emergency, stating "numerous wildfires across Washington pose a serious threat to homes, infrastructure, businesses and natural resources".[13]

The Tripod Complex was extinguished in October, when snowfall ended the wildfire season.[7] The complex had burned a total of 175,184 acres (709 km2).[14]


  1. ^ "Incident Status Summary (ICS-209)". National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  2. ^ Annual Fire Report 2006 - Pacific Northwest Area (PDF) (Report). Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. 2006. p. x.
  3. ^ Northwest Interagency Coordination Center 2006, p. 2.
  4. ^ Prichard, S.J.; Peterson, D.L.; Jacobson, K (2010). "Fuel treatments reduce the severity of wildfire effects in dry mixed conifer forest". Canadian Journal of Forest Research. Washington, USA. 40: 1616.
  5. ^ Northwest Interagency Coordination Center 2006, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Northwest Interagency Coordination Center 2006, p. 6.
  7. ^ a b c Prichard, Susan J.; Peterson, David L. Landscape analysis of fuel treatment longevity and effectiveness in the 2006 Tripod Complex Fires (PDF) (Report). Joint Fire Science Program. p. 4.
  8. ^ Northwest Interagency Coordination Center 2006, p. 5-6.
  9. ^ Ever, Louisa; Rich, Tim; Lind, Rick (29 July 2006). Spur Peak Complex and Tripod Fires Assessment Team Report (PDF) (Report). Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. p. 2.
  10. ^ Northwest Interagency Coordination Center 2006, p. 7.
  11. ^ Zubeck, Pam (22 August 2006). "Army battles Washington blaze". The Gazette. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Archived from the original on 2 September 2018. Retrieved 1 September 2018 – via Highbeam Research.
  12. ^ "Firefighting mission ends for Army's Task Force Blaze" (Press release). United States Northern Command. 2 September 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Gregoire gets look at blazes, declares wildfire emergency". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Associated Press. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  14. ^ Dininny, Shannon (29 October 2006). "Cleanup after fire may set cost mark". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. Retrieved 1 September 2018.