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Kittitas County Fire Updates

2:30 p.m. August 19, 2014

Evacuation notices removed for fires in Kittitas County

The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office has removed all evacuation notices for the Snag Canyon Fire, which was 81 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a news release

Road closures remain at Smithson Road and Robbins Road, Wilson Creek and Naneum roads at Charlton Road, Cooke Canyon and Colockum roads at Gage Road, and Reecer Creek Road at Forest Service Road 3500. Schnebly Canyon, Coleman Canyon, and the Naneum State Forest also remain closed. The Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest has an area closure adjacent to the fire.

The South Cle Elum Ridge Fire is 77 percent contained. Evacuation notices for Woods and Steele Road have been removed. Roadblocks remain for Forest Service Road 4510, Forest Service Road 3350 at the junction with Forest Service Road 119, and at Forest Service Road 3300 at the South Fork Taneum Creek bridge.


11:00 a.m. August 15, 2014

Kittitas County Updates Damage Estimate, Begins Accepting Fire Debris

The Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center has updated damage assessments for the Snag Canyon Fire. There are now 22 confirmed structures lost, including 10 homes or cabins and 12 other structures.

Kittitas County Solid Waste will begin accepting fire debris on August 18th, which meets the 15-day waiting period requirement.  Homeowners and property owners who have reported damages from the Snag Canyon Fire are encouraged to contact Solid Waste at 509-962-7542 to discuss debris removal options.  Solid Waste will work directly with owners affected by this fire.

If you have not reported damages from the Snag Canyon Fire, please contact the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office at 509-933-8305 for assistance.


8:45 a.m. August 14, 2014

Northern Rockies Incident Management Team Takes Command

The Snag Canyon fire is now an estimated 12,500 acres with 875 personnel assigned. An unstable air mass moved in the area earlier this week bringing in nightly rain showers. Up to an additional ¼ inch of rain fell on some parts of the fire last night. The moisture from the last few days has greatly aided firefighter efforts. They are taking every advantage to secure existing lines, and prepare for drier weather when it comes.

Containment lines to the east, west, and south continue to hold and will be monitored today. Crews will find and extinguish pockets of heat within 100 feet of the fireline and 300 feet around structures. Handheld infared cameras will be used to locate pockets of heat not visible to the eye. Construction of line will continue along the north edge and burnout operations will occur where appropriate and when the opportunity exists.

Several new fires from last night’s lightning occurred but were quickly extinguished. Resources will be available for initial attack and will continue to monitor for new fires.

The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, led by Incident Commander Doug Turman, took command of the Snag Canyon Fire at 6 AM this morning and the Incident Command Post will relocate to the Hart K Ranch west of Ellensburg.
Public and firefighter safety is still a significant concern.

Weather Outlook: Thunderstorms are predicted again today and tomorrow bringing additional moisture. A flash flood watch is in effect today and tomorrow with heavy rain and gusty erratic winds to 30 mph possible with these thunderstorms.
Evacuation Information: The evacuations levels have not changed. Residents affected by the fire can contact the Kittitas County EOC at 509-933-8305 for more information, or visit the county website for updates and evacuation maps at https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/.

Forest Closures: The Washington Department of Natural Resources issued a closure for the entire Naneum Ridge State Forest. Contact DNR Southeast Region at 509-925-8510 for details. The Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest has issued an Area Closure adjacent to the fire. More information can be found on http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4046/ or call the Cle Elum Ranger District at 509-852-1100.

Injuries: There have been 8 non-life threatening medical issues that received treatment at the local hospital. All were treated and released.


8 a.m. August 13, 2014

Wednesday's fire meeting postponed

Wednesday's public meeting for the Snag Canyon Fire at CWU has been postponed. The meeting will be rescheduled once the new incident management team takes command.

The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, led by Incident Commander Doug Turman, will be taking command of the Snag Canyon Fire at 6 a.m. Thursday morning. The Washington Incident Management Team #1 will return home Thursday for two days rest before becoming available for new fires.

Snag Canyon Fire gets a quarter inch of rain

The Snag Canyon fire is an estimated 12,500 acres with 850 personnel assigned. An unstable air mass moved into the area Tuesday afternoon, bringing about a quarter inch of rain, according to an InciWeb update Wednesday morning. Firefighters will take advantage of the cooler and wetter conditions to construct firelines on the northern perimeter.

Resources will be available for initial attack should new fires be detected. Fire crews are aggressively fighting this fire, but continue to be concerned about the weather forecast and fuel conditions.

A flash flood watch is in effect for the Snag Canyon Fire Wednesday. Atmospheric moisture will continue the threat of heavy rainfall from thunderstorms.

Flash flood warning for South Cle Elum Ridge Fire

The South Cle Elum Ridge Fire is estimated to be 894 acres with 476 personnel assigned. It is 15 percent contained, according to an InciWeb update Wednesday morning. A public meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, August 14, at the Cle Elum Centennial Center (719 E. Third St., Cle Elum). Kittitas County emergency managers and fire managers will provide a fire update and answer questions.

There was only one hour of full sun on the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire on Tuesday, and even with the cooler temperatures and higher humidity, during that single hour fire activity picked up and in places moved into the treetops. West winds helped push the fire in on itself on the western flank, and upslope winds on the east flank slowed fire progress to the east.

There is chance of showers or thunderstorms throughout the day on Wednesday. Heavy rain and gusty erratic winds up to 30 mph are possible with thunderstorms. There is a flash flood watch in effect for the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire Wednesday.


1 p.m. August 12, 2014

Next public meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday at CWU

A public informational meeting is planned at 7 p.m. Wednesday in room 137 A and B in the SURC at CWU. Fire managers and Kittitas County emergency managers will provide an update on the wildfires burning in Kittitas County and answer questions.


8 a.m. August 12, 2014

South Cle Elum Ridge Fire doubles in size

Intense fire behavior made for a tough day Monday for firefighters working the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire, according to an InciWeb update Tuesday morning. The fire increased in size by more than 400 acres for a total of about 760 acres. About 415 people are working to control the fire, which is burning in heavy timber and snags. 

With the aid of retardant drops from a DC-10 aircraft, firefighters were able to hold the line on the top of South Cle Elum Ridge. They also moderated the spread of the fire to the south and east. The fire is expected to continue to burn up the Butte Creek drainage during the day Tuesday.

With cooler temperatures, higher humidity and light precipitation the fire should be less active Tuesday, giving firefighters opportunities to strengthen existing lines and construct line in areas where the fire expanded Monday.

There has been no change in evacuation levels; 15 homes on Woods and Steele Road are under a level 1 evacuation.

Thunderstorms are expected throughout the day Tuesday. It will be partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. Winds will be light; it is possible for gusty erratic winds to 40 mph to accompany thunderstorms.

North section of Snag Canyon Fire continues to be a challenge

Northern divisions of the Snag Canyon Fire north of Ellensburg continue to be a challenge with steep and difficult terrain. An unstable air mass moved into the area Monday night and will dominate through Wednesday, according to an InciWeb update Tuesday morning. 

The fire is about 12,000 acres with more than 850 people working to control it. The perimeter is about 30 percent contained. Crews had success on the west, south and east flanks of the fire where patrol, monitoring, and mop up operations are continuing. The area around the Sun East subdivision is being mopped up and infrared is being used to detect hot spots around structures.


9 a.m. August 11, 2014

Public meeting planned 7 p.m. Monday in Cle Elum

A public meeting is planned at 7 p.m. Monday, August 11 at the Centennial Center in Cle Elum (719 E. Third St.). Fire managers will give an update on the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire and answer questions.

The fire, seven miles southwest of South Cle Elum, has not had any significant growth beyond 300 acres. About 15 homes on Woods and Steele Road remain under a level 1 evacuation. Forest closures are in place in the Taneum Creek Area, Woods and Steele Road, Five Corners and FS Road 3300 at the bridge across South Fork Taneum Creek.

The Snag Canyon Fire 12 miles north of Ellensburg is up to 10,500 acres and has about 900 personnel working to stop it. About 30 percent of the perimeter is contained. Crews had good success getting the north flank of the fire staffed and creating a preliminary fireline. Heavy smoke in the Kittitas Valley over the weekend was in part due to backburning exercises on the northwest edge of the fire.

Air quality worsens in the Kittitas Valley 

Air quality in Ellensburg was considered very unhealthy Monday morning, according to the state Department of Ecology's air monitoring site on Ruby Street. Very unhealthy means some healthy people can have breathing problems, and people with asthma, lung and heart disease have an increased risk of symptoms or worsening of their disease.

Ecology recommends everyone stay indoors, do only light activities, and keep windows closed (if it is not too hot). Run air conditioners on re-circulate and close the outside air intake. People without air conditioning need to take precautions against heat stress and should consider temporarily relocating to an area with better air quality such as a friend’s house, relative’s house, or a public space. This recommendation is especially important for sensitive groups which include:

    * People with pre-existing lung or heart conditions such as asthma or emphysema, diabetes, or other respiratory infections;
    * People who have had a stroke;
    * Infants, children, and adults older than 65; and
    * Pregnant women.

If you must go outside, wear an N95 respirator mask. CWU has N95 masks for students, faculty, staff and guests available upon request through the SURC Information Desk between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Masks also are available at the Red Cross in Ellensburg, Kittitas Valley Healthcare, the Kittitas County Public Health Department and the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office.

At CWU, the HVAC systems on all of the buildings equipped with air handlers have been switched into full re-circulation mode in an effort to maintain the best possible inside air quality given the outside conditions.


Snag Canyon Update (InciWeb Briefing)

5:50 p.m. August 10, 2014

The Snag Canyon fire is currently estimated at 9,300 acres and is 25 percnet contained. Crews have had good success on the west, south and east flanks of the fire. Patrol, monitoring, and mop up operations continue in those areas.

Efforts will be concentrated on the north flank of the fire where terrain is a challenge. A Fireline Explosives Crew will continue to work in the northwest where terrain conditions are too dangerous to utilize hand crews. Three hotshot crews will work to construct and improve fire line and tie in the north end from east to west. Dozers will continue to be utilized in building and maintaining both contingency and direct control lines.

The area around Sun East subdivision is being mopped up and infrared is being used to detect hot spots around structures.


6:15 p.m. August 9

Snag Canyon Fire slows, more resources head to Cle Elum Ridge Fire

(Yakima Herald-Republic)

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — The Snag Canyon Fire grew only slightly overnight and is now reported to be 25 percent contained, while the number of firefighters at the South Cle Elum Ridge fire doubled this morning.

Firefighters remain concerned about a weather forecast of possible lightning storms early next week.

The Snag Canyon Fire, which was started by lightning on Aug. 2, is now estimated at 8,842 acres — up about 40 acres from Friday. More than 800 personnel are now working on the fire, which is burning in grass, brush and timber roughly 12 miles north of Ellensburg. No additional evacuations have been ordered today.

Meanwhile, a state-level management team and more firefighters have arrived to fight the 400-acre South Cle Elum Ridge Fire burning about six miles southwest of the town of South Cle Elum.

A total of 100 personnel — double Friday’s tally — are now working on containing the blaze and preventing it from reaching the crest.

Read more...


5 p.m. August 8, 2014

Kittitas County Sheriff
Public Service Announcement

Snag Canyon and South Cle Elum Ridge Fires

Kittitas County, WA -08/08/2014 - The Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor the Snag Canyon Fire twelve miles north of Ellensburg and the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire six miles south of Cle Elum.

Evacuation levels have not changed for the Snag Canyon Fire.  There will be a public meeting regarding the Snag Canyon Fire on Saturday, August 9th at 7:00PM at Central Washington University Student Union Recreation Center, Rooms 137 A&B.

In the South Cle Elum area, fifteen residences in the Woods and Steele Road area are currently under a Level 1 evacuation notice.  For residents, this is the time for preparation and precautionary movement of persons with special needs, mobile property, and pets or livestock.

No homes are under a Level 2 or 3 evacuation notice for the South Cle Elum Ridge Fire at this time.  A Level 2 notice advises residents to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.  Under a Level 3 notice, residents are advised to evacuate immediately.

Residences affected by the fires can contact the EOC at 509-933-8305 for more information, or visit the county website for updates and evacuation maps at http://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/.  For fire information, please visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4046/, or contact the Snag Canyon Fire Information Office at 509-731-3641.


2:30 p.m. August 8, 2014

There will be a community fire meeting Saturday at 7 p.m.  The meeting will be held in the CWU Student Union and Recreation Center, rooms 137A and B. Parking is free and emergency fire staff will provide details about the Snag Canyon and other fires.


9:30 a.m. August 8, 2014​

A new fire erupted south of Cle Elum Thursday afternoon, sending smoke into the Kittitas Valley. The fire is believed to have smoldered since last weekend's lightning. The fire is burning on about 400 acres of timber. Firefighters are on the scene and additional support in the form of helicopters, tankers and personnel are arriving today.  

Community information meetings are being scheduled for the weekend to keep residents up-to-date on the status of fires in Kittitas County. 

When you read or hear about fire evacuations, keep in mind they follow a "Read, Set, Go" pattern.

Level 1: Be Ready

There is an incident in the area. Leave now if you need extra time to exit an area or have health conditions (especially respiratory conditions that could be made worse by smoke). This level is voluntary.

Level 2: Leave Soon

Consider leaving the area or be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Level 3: Leave Immediately!

Danger is immediate and imminent! Leave immediately. Access to the area is restricted.


8:00 a.m. August 8, 2014

The Snag Canyon Fire is estimated to be 8,800 acres as of 8 a.m. Friday, August 8. There are 711 personnel working to control the fire, which is about 15 percent contained. 

Northwest winds are expected this afternoon and evening with a red flag warning from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. The red flag warning means a combination of strong wind, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures will elevate the risk of rapid fire spread on new or ongoing fires, according to the National Weather Service.


On Wednesday a damage assessment team from the local Emergency Operations Center was able to access more properties in the burned area of the Snag Canyon Fire, updating the number of lost structures to 19 (eight homes or cabins and 11 other structures).

Evacuation orders have been lowered for West Sun East Road, giving residents in the non-burned area access beyond the roadblock. All other evacuation levels remain in place: about 22 homes are under a level 3 evacuation in Schnebly Canyon, Coleman Canyon, and the burned area of Sun East. About 104 homes are under a level 2 evacuation in Cooke Canyon, Wilson Creek Road, and Naneum Road (north of Charlton Road) and the southwest part of Sun East. About 122 homes are under a level 1 evacuation on Colockum Pass Road, Wilson Creek Road, and Naneum Road (south of Charlton Road).

The emergency animal shelter at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds continues to house evacuated animals, and volunteers are needed for many different tasks. To help, call 509-933-8399. Anyone wanting to help evacuate animals, should the need arise, can call the number above to have their name added to a contact list.

While air quality in Ellensburg has remained good for the past few days, folks who live closer to the fire might experience poorer air quality. The Kittitas County Public Health Department advises residents close to the fire to limit their time outdoors and their exposure to unhealthy air. The health department has N95 particulate filtering facemasks available. Call 509-962-7515 for information about air quality and facemasks.

There are approximately 550 personnel working the fire. Washington State Fire Mobilization resources continue to assist Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue with structure protection. The Washington National Guard has deployed 40 soldiers who will provide 24-hour traffic control and medical services to firefighters.

Crews are continuing to build and strengthen contingency lines along the east and northeast sections of the fire. On the southwest, crews are conducting mop-up operations and making sure there are no pockets of heat around structures.

3 p.m. August 7, 2014


The Snag Canyon Fire has grown to 8,400 acres as of Thursday morning, August 7. Fire managers have about 500 personnel working to control the fire, which is estimated to be about 10 percent contained. 

Ellensburg is expected to get northwest winds of 16-21mph today, with gusts as high as 31 mph, according the National Weather Service. Tonight will be breezy with gusts up to 32 mph. 

9 a.m. August 7, 2014


The Washington State Patrol approved a State Fire Mobilization for the Snag Canyon Fire. Six strike teams of structure protection engines (for a total of 30 engines) have been requested from across the state to assist Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue. 

Cooke Canyon Road and Colockum Pass Road are closed at Gage Road (open to residents only) and Schnebly Road is closed at the gate. The state Department of Natural Resources has closed the entire Naneum Ridge State Forest.

Evacuation levels for the Sun East neighborhood were downgraded at noon Wednesday, allowing residents in the non-burned area past the roadblock at Smithson Road and Robbins Road.

1:30 p.m. August 6, 2014


Central Washington University is providing rooms in Wendell Hill Hall where crews who fight fire at night can rest during the day. Firefighters battling the Snag Canyon Fire need a cooler, darker alternative to the dome tents scattered throughout the Kittitas County Fairgrounds.

Army National Guard soldiers are among the roughly 70 people staying in Wendell Hill Hall. They will be arriving Thursday and Friday and will be in town helping with the fire north of Ellensburg for two to three weeks. CWU also may provide shelter for additional out-of-town firefighters arriving over the weekend.

12:30 p.m. August 6, 2014


The Snag Canyon Fire has grown to 6,400 acres as of 7:50 a.m. Wednesday, August 6. About 450 personnel are managing the fire, which is burning in grass, brush and timber 12 miles north of Ellensburg.

The Sun East neighborhood remains under evacuation. Roads leading to Naneum, Schnebly and Coleman canyons also are closed.

More than 150 people attended a town hall meeting Tuesday night at CWU where fire managers and local law enforcement gave an update and answered questions.

Dean Lange, the fire team’s operations chief, said even though structures were lost the night the fire started, it would have been worse were it not for our local firefighters.

“They did a bang-up job and handed us a package we could work with,” Lange said.

He said the goal is to herd the fire up north where the Table Mountain Fire burned two years ago.

DNR’s Joe Blazek said the fire is getting plenty of wind and rain is not expected for the foreseeable future. He said the fire is exhibiting extreme behavior—single and group torching of trees and crowning of trees in some areas.

DNR’s Todd Welker told the audience Kittitas County has great cooperation and is “jurisdiction blind.” He said the community is very supportive.

“If the lady who brought cookies last night is here, they were very good. You can bring some more,” Welker said. 

9 a.m. August 6, 2014


The Snag Canyon Fire has grown to an estimated 3,500 acres, according to an update from Washington Incident Management Team 1. The fire, pushed east by gusty west winds, is now burning in the Naneum Canyon. The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office has closed roads into Naneum, Schnebly and Coleman canyons.

Weather continues to be a concern. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning until 10 p.m. today. 

The Sun East community remains under evacuation. The west half of the Naneum Ridge State Forest also is closed to the public. 

3:30 p.m. August 5, 2014


The Snag Canyon Fire burning 12 miles north of Ellensburg is continuing to grow on its north and east flanks, according to a status update issued noon Tuesday, August 5 by Washington Incident Management Team 1. The fire is estimated to be 2,865 acres and has destroyed six residences and 10 other structures. It is about 10 percent contained. 

The weather forecast and fuel conditions are a concern as firefighters build and strengthen firelines around the perimeter. Dozer and handlines have been constructed around the south and west border of the fire, and crews are continuing to provide structure protection in those areas.

Warm and dry conditions are expected to continue with no precipitation in the next week. A series of dry, cold fronts will bring westerly winds and officials are preparing for sustained wind of 5-8 mph with gusts up to 30 mph overnight. 

A public meeting is planned at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 5 in the SURC Theatre at CWU. Fire managers and personnel with the local Emergency Operations Center will give an update on the fire and answer questions. 

Noon, August 5, 2014


Sixteen structures are confirmed lost in the Snag Canyon Fire after Emergency Operations Center personnel spent today assessing the damage, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. Six structures were residences or cabins and 10 additional parcels have other structure losses, including outbuildings or RVs. There have been no injuries or accidents.

Once residents are allowed back into the affected areas, those with property damage are encouraged to file a report by calling 509-933-8305 or by filling out a damage form on the county's website. The information will help determine if damages are significant enough to warrant a request for federal disaster assistance and other forms of assistance.

Washington Incident Management Team 1 has increased the estimated size of the fire to 1,930 acres and says it is 10 percent contained as of 6 p.m. Monday, August 4. 

Evacuation levels and road closures have not changed and will be reassessed each day.

A public meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 5 in the SURC Theatre at CWU.

6 p.m. August 4, 2014


The Kittitas County Public Health Department says residents should be mindful of the changing air quality in Kittitas County as a result of the Snag Canyon Fire. Wildfire smoke contains gases and fine particles that can cause burning to the eyes, according to the health department. The gases and fine particles also can be inhaled, which makes it hard to breathe and can worsen health conditions such as asthma.

Residents can access air quality information at any time via the Washington Air Quality Advisory website. The tool measures air quality using six categories ranging from “good” to “hazardous."

If air quality conditions reach “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the health department recommends people with asthma, respiratory infections, and lung or heart disease limit time spent outdoors. For more information about air quality contact the health department at 509-962-7515.

12:20 p.m. August 4, 2014


Fire managers working the Snag Canyon Fire north of Ellensburg say 200 firefighters are on scene and more resources have been ordered. The fire is estimated to be 1,800 acres and officials expect to get a size update later today, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. Personnel from the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center are attempting to assess property damage.

A public meeting is planned at 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 5 in the SURC Theatre (room 210) at CWU. Representatives from the Emergency Operations Center and Washington Incident Management Team #1 will give a fire update and answer questions.  Parking is free.

The emergency animal shelter at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds has 17 alpacas, two horses, two ponies and three dogs.

11 a.m. August 4, 2014


The Snag Canyon Fire burning 12 miles north of Ellensburg started by lightning on Saturday, August 2, 2014. It has prompted the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office to issue evacuation orders for neighborhoods and recreation areas near the fire.

The evacuated area includes the entire Sun East area, Robbins Road north of Smithson Road and east to Naneum Creek, north to the northern boundary of Township 20 north Range 19 east, and west to Forest Service Road 3500, according to the sheriff's office. Robbins Road is closed at Smithson Road to all traffic except fire personnel. The U.S. Forest Service also closed Forest Service Road 3500 and the Lion Rock area north of the fire. The state Department of Natural Resources has closed the western half of the Naneum Ridge State Forest. Officers will be contacting people recreating in the area.

Wilson Creek Road and Naneum Road (north of Charlton Road) are open to residents but closed to the public.

The fire has been estimated at 1,830 acres. Official damage assessments have yet to be made, according to the sheriff's office. A Red Cross emergency shelter is open at Mercer Creek Church in Ellensburg. An emergency shelter for livestock and other animals is set up at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds.

People affected by the fire can contact the Emergency Operations Center at 509-933-8305. 

August 3, 2014

Links to more information

Snag Canyon Fire Status Map  |  Washington Air Quality Map

Emergency Response Information  |  Washington Smoke Information Blog

Washington State Fire Map  |  InciWeb Incident Information System