NORTH FORK – At the morning briefing today crews were told that this would be a pivotal day on the Willow Fire. That certainly proved to be true.
Huge columns of smoke rose from the foot of Peckinpah Mountain throughout the morning and much of the afternoon as firefighters burned out vegetation inside control lines.
The show started long before dawn near Cascadel woods, as crews fired the dozer line running down toward Douglas Ranger Station Road. As the day progressed, the dense concentration of smoke slowly moved from east to west as firefighters finessed it along just where they wanted it.
A buildup of cumulus clouds about 20 miles to the east may have raised an eyebrow with planners with the potential for gusty outflow winds, but the threat never materialized. And of course fire officials had a contingency plan for that eventuality, and kept a good eye on the weather.
By late afternoon, crews had tied in their last little piece of line up near Sand Creek on the northern perimeter, and had completed mop-up 50-60 feet inside the line.
Divisions A and B are quiet and crews are being reassigned to other divisions (see map below). Divisions M and X are also holding well and firefighters are well into mop-up.
In Division Y – the southeast corner – the firing operations were completed, and the night shift will be watching for spots, improving existing line and starting to do mop-up wherever possible.
On Douglas Ranger Station Road, crews were set up at homes all along the road for structure protection while others completed firing operations.
On Division Z firefighters tied in their last section of line, essentially completing the puzzle. Now the job is to get to the point where, if they were to get adverse winds over the fire, there would be no danger of spot fires or anything escaping the line.
Getting to that point, where officials are comfortable that goal has been reached, will determine when residents can return home.
At a Town Hall meeting earlier in the day, Incident Commander David Cooper said they may begin looking at allowing residents to return home some time Monday, but that decision won’t be made for a day or two. For more details on the timeline for lifting the evacuations, click here.
Though over 5,000 acres have burned over seven days with scorching temperatures and difficult terrain, not one structure was lost or damaged, and no firefighters were seriously injured.
At the end of the evening briefing, joint Incident Commander Bob Laeng pointed to the barely smoldering mountainside and told the troops, “See that? That’s your fault. You did that. Outstanding flippin’ work!”