Bolt Creek Fire takes over Tulalip owned parcels

By Shaelyn Smead; photos courtesy of Natosha Gobin, John Carlson, and Lindsay Ross

All over Washington state, people have heard about the devastating Bolt Creek Fire that started on September 10 at 5:00 a.m. in Skykomish. As of September 13 at 5:15 a.m., a devastating 9,440 acres have been burned, with only a 5% containment on the fire. The fire stretches from Skykomish to Halford, and is leaving people in surrounding cities to evacuate their homes. With wildfires being so scarce in Western Washington, it is leaving plenty of Washington residents alarmed, and scared about the outcome of such a large fire. 

Within the same area as the fire, there are two properties that Tulalip owns. These properties are typically called the Grotto Lake parcel and the Eagle Creek parcel. The properties were originally bought by Tulalip back in October 2019 in efforts to allow a safe and sacred area for tribal members to harvest berries, pull cedar, camp, hike, hunt, collect resources for cultural arts, and hold cultural practices. It was an enticing piece of land because of its proximity to Tulalip and its relation to our Coast Salish ancestors. Along with that, because of the drastic levels of elevations, the parcels’ vegetation grew many different variations of natural resources that tribal members could collect and utilize. 

Director of Treaty Rights and Government Affairs, Ryan Miller, described the properties stretching to about 1000 acres. He said approximately 50% of each property has already succumbed to the devastation of the fire. 

When news broke out about the fire, and the threat it does to our cultural practices, it left some tribal members is disarray. The thought of this land not being accessible for any sacred works anymore is heartbreaking for Tulalip and many are left wondering what will become of it. 

Natosha Gobin and family were harvesting berries at one of the Tulalip properties the night before the fire.

The night before the start of the fire, Tulalip Tribal member Natosha Gobin and her family just happened to be on one of the Tulalip properties harvesting berries. “We went about four or five times this year. This time around, we left the peak at 7:30 p.m. Our hopes were to get up early and head back the next morning because the berries were plentiful. We were so excited to finally be introduced to the space, it felt so healing to be up there. This fire is so heartbreaking,” Natosha said. Luckily her family had a change of plans, and did not go back up the mountain the next morning and none of her family risked any danger of the fire.  

One major change that some tribal members have noticed and attested to is the abundance of trees that have grown over the years. Along with that, the road is really rough making the properties difficult to get to. Something that is later found to be a difficult realization for the firefighters involved. 

The Tulalip Fire Department has been one of the many resources that has been supporting efforts towards battling wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. Currently the department has two task forces stationed out. One of which consists of three members that are located in Oregon taking on the Cedar Creek Fire, just a mere three days before the start of the Bolt Creek Fire. One of the members is John Carlson, who has been with the department for six years. Cedar Creek Fire makes for his first experience with a wildfire.

John spoke about the wildfires and how they are so different in perspective to structure fires in the Tulalip area, “With structure fires, we’re usually well-trained and know the area very well, versus on a landscape, we’re fighting the larger grassland, sagebrush, larger timber, and heavy terrain. We also mainly work off brush trucks when dealing with wildfires, and a problem we face is water supply. We do have a water tender in our strike team, but if it runs out, we have to get resourceful with our water supply. Being up in the terrain we can’t directly connect to a fire hydrant, so sometimes we find ourselves syphoning from pools, streams, lakes, etc. Anything with 100 gallons of water can make a huge difference,” he said. 

When news broke out about the Bolt Creek Fire, the three-man crew had already gotten settled in with the team in Oregon. “This is the first time I’ve been deployed and there was a fire of this magnitude near our home,” John said.  “A lot of us we wondering if we would get redirected back. But with the resources that we have sent up to Bolt Creek, we felt confident in the team’s ability. Much like a lot of fire departments, every summer during peak season our department gets stretched in different directions. But as much we appreciate and are glad to be helping take care of members down here, it is hard when we know our home isn’t safe.” 

Tulalip Bay Firefighter Austin Panek and Tender 60.

Of course with the Bolt Creek Fire being a prominent fire in our area, and the risk it brings to the Tulalip owned properties, an additional two Tulalip firefighters have been sent to Skykomish, Paramedic Lindsay Ross and firefighter Austin Panek left early this week to help Sky Valley Fire Department. Amongst them are the other 20+ fire departments and private fire companies that include North Ridge Fire, American Fire, Zigzag Hotshots, and Patrick Environmental, making up for more than 317 personnel that have opted in for fighting this fire.  

Lindsay has been with the fire department for six years, but has an extensive 10-year  career working as a wildland firefighter. This is her first time working as a line medic, and her role is to help work with the crews onsite to ensure their safety, help with any medical care, and help with the falling rocks in the area.

Tulalip Bay Fire Paramedic Lindsay Ross.

Lindsay explained that even though wildfires of this magnitude are rare in Western Washington, it is something that should be expected for the future. “When fires do take off over here, there’s usually a lot of old debris and old trees that are likely dried up and when it builds up over time, a fire is able to take off easier. There is definitely some prescribe burns that the state will do to try and thin out the forest a little so it doesn’t happen as often. But with the summers getting hotter every year and with having lower humidity, I think a fire like this in our area has been overdue for a while.” 

Hearing from wildfire experts like Lindsay, we learned that even though wet and rainy springs and early summers seem like they would help decrease the risk of wildfires, that isn’t always the case. 

“Rain during that time of the year does make fire danger go lower, but it also will make more sagebrush and longer grasses, that eventually will dry up in the summer and turn into fuel for the fires,” said John. “The more that grows in the spring and early summer, the heavier potential fire fuel load it creates, and the bigger the fire can get. Something we noticed this year was that we had a lot more fire fuels from Spring than I think in years’ past.” 

What is most difficult about Bolt Creek Fire is the heavy terrain that exists in the area. “With the heavy forestry and it being hillside, we have a more difficult time accessing the spots that are burning hot,” said Lindsay. “And with no accessible roads in most spots, heavy equipment cannot be easily moved around.” 

Between hot summers, lower humidity, and lots of drier vegetation and debris, another factor for this fire is the amount of wind that picked up in the area. Local fire departments refer to the ‘Witching Hour’ that falls between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. During this time, wind begins to pick up and is at its heaviest, making this the most dangerous part of any day. Knowing that wind can be so unpredictable with how fast it goes and in which direction, can lead to a lot of variations of disaster. The Bolt Creek Fire had around 30-40 mph winds, which ultimately made for its drastic escalation.

“The reality of this fire is that its burning really close to our backyard”, said Tulalip Fire Chief Ryan Shaughnessy. “There’s people that have family and friends in the area and that we’re concerned about. But we’re working hard and wish for the best outcome by everyone.” 

The Bolt Creek Fire did receive some water and fire retardant dropping from planes flying above. A typical resource used for fires in heavy terrain. Along with that, many firefighters have been working to diminish the terrain and have been putting a dirt dozer line bordering the fire in hopes to create a stopping point. Any houses around the area have also received some treatment and precautionary actions in case the fire continues to spread. 

Ryan spoke about the awareness of the risk of wildfires and the new potential for them in our area, “This is our first time dealing with a westside fire, but with that being said, we did understand that there was a risk of one in our future. We preemptively have been working with other tribes, and collected burn plan ideas to help mitigate future fires. That’s why, if you went up to the properties, you’d see some of the trees had already been cut. We also applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant of 1.3 million dollars earlier this year. This funding will help us work with partners in the Snohomish Basin and understand more of the interaction between climate change and water and it’s impacts on forestry and likeliness of fire in the basin,” he stated.

With the powerfulness of the fire, it’s easy to see that these thoughts and actions taken by Tulalip were in the right direction in understanding the risks of westside fires. “Now that the fire has happened, it’s even more of a reason for us to understand and gain a better grasp on our forestry, and the FEMA grant will help inform us for the future,” Ryan said.  

Understanding fires in our area and the reality of potential for them, there are definitely steps that can be taken by citizens to help mitigate it. 

“First is knowing that fires have the potential to happen anywhere,” said Lindsay. “People have to be cautious about having fires outside, lighting off fireworks, making sure you have water and mostly listening and respecting burn bans when they are in effect. People never think it’s going to happen to them until it does.” 

As terrifying and devastating as wildfires can be, they do have the opportunity to act as a natural rebirthing for wildlife and vegetation. So far, Ryan has stated that there are plans for replantation in the affected area, and that they plan to work with the Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources in order to create a better plan of action, and get as much fuel load off the forest.

Along with that, he said that tribal members should expect some berry regrowth by next spring, and even though trees take a much longer time to grow to their mature state, Ryan said that we should expect tree shoots by next year. He also spoke about the hunting opportunities that the area will bring. “Deer love to eat young shoots and with the area being more open, hunters will be able to spot deer a little easier,” he said. 

At the moment, the fire is still unpredictable, but firefighters are hoping to button everything up soon. The good news is that the fire doesn’t contain large flames at the moment, making the likeliness for it to spread, lower. 

Thank you to the Tulalip Fire Department and all participating fire departments for your efforts.

Lighting fireworks banned on Tulalip reservation land due to fire danger

Photo/ Tulalip Forestry Department

Photo/ Tulalip Forestry Department

Lighting of  fireworks are banned on all Tulalip reservation lands due to increased fire danger.

Source: Tulalip Forestry Department
All outdoor burning is banned with the exception of recreational fires in approved fire pits
Recreational fires must:
·        Be built in a metal, concrete or rock fire pit, such as those typically found in designated campgrounds; and not be used as debris disposal;
·        Grow no larger than three feet in diameter;
·        Be located in a clear spot free from any vegetation for at least 10 feet in a horizontal direction, including at least 25 feet away from any structure and allow 20-foot vertical clearance from overhanging branches;
·        Be attended at all times by an alert individual and equipment capable of extinguishing the fire.
·        Cultural fires are exempt but must Be attended at all times by an individual and equipment capable of extinguishing the fire .
All outdoor burn permits are suspended until this ban is lifted. This ban will remain in effect until there is a sustained period of rainfall and the fire risk returns to low.
As the season progresses and fire danger continues to get higher additional restrictions will be implemented.

Snoqualmie Tribe Donates $250,000 to Aid Eastern Washington Fire Victims

 

The Snoqualmie Tribe is donating $250,000 to assist in the relief efforts for those affected by the devastating fires burning in Eastern Washington. In total the Tribe is giving $200,000 to the American Red Cross Eastern Washington region designated to the 2014 fire victims and $50,000 to Washington Animal Search and Rescue.

“We are all part of a larger community, and felt in a time like this that it is important to reach out and help those in need. Our hearts go out to all of those affected by this massive fire, and hope that our contributions can help in the recovery and healing process,” said Carolyn Lubenau, tribal chairwoman.

After extensive research, the Tribe decided to place its donations with the American Red Cross and Washington Animal Search and Rescue. Both groups can directly benefit from the donations and make a difference in people’s lives. Officials including the Wenatchee Red Cross have said the best way for people to assist in the relief effort was through monetary donations.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered a loss due to a fire and also to those working so diligently to put it out,” adds Lubenau.

The fires burning in Eastern Washington are part of an eruption of lightning-sparked wildfires across Washington and Oregon that have scorched to date almost a million acres of land. The largest fire in Eastern Washington is the Carlton Complex fire that is the worst of Washington State’s seven fires.

State of emergency declared as fires threaten homes

by MICHAEL KONOPASEK / KING 5 News

NWCN.com, July 16, 2014 at 6:43 AM


A state of emergency has been declared in 20 Eastern Washington counties as new and existing wildfires threaten several hundred homes, as well as businesses, infrastructure and natural resources.

The declaration allows officials to get help from the Washington National Guard and the State Guard if needed. It also directs state agencies to help local governments in responding to wildfires.

As of early Wednesday morning, a 40 percent perimeter was contained at the state’s largest wildfire, Mills Canyon, near Entiat. The fire is holding steady at about 35 square miles.

Conditions could be an issue for firefighters Wednesday, according to meteorologists. Highs in the 100s are anticipated. Added to windy conditions, that could challenge firefighters and homeowners.

State officials are worried extreme fire weather conditions and the lack of firefighting resources in the Northwest could hamper future firefighting efforts in the state.

Six other fires were sparked Tuesday. New wildfires, some started by lightning, are keeping crews busy in central Washington. A brush fire temporarily closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 90 Tuesday night in the central part of the state.

The proclamation of emergency covers Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima counties.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen signed the emergency proclamation late Tuesday.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources has put a burn ban in place for all state lands that is projected to last until September 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

State of Emergency on Navajo Nation as Assayii Lake Fire Exceeds 13,000 Acres

Donovan Quintero/APThis June 17, 2014 handout photo provided by the Navajo Times shows the Asaayii Lake Fire raging out of control at the ridge of the Chuska Mountains, west of Naschitti, N.M. Tribal agriculture officials say depending on the fire's intesity, it could be a while before sheepherders and cattle ranchers get to return to the hills outside of Naschitti and Sheep Springs.

Donovan Quintero/AP
This June 17, 2014 handout photo provided by the Navajo Times shows the Asaayii Lake Fire raging out of control at the ridge of the Chuska Mountains, west of Naschitti, N.M. Tribal agriculture officials say depending on the fire’s intesity, it could be a while before sheepherders and cattle ranchers get to return to the hills outside of Naschitti and Sheep Springs.

 

Indian Country Today

The Navajo Nation has declared a state of emergency regarding the Assayii Lake fire, which has burgeoned to 13,250 acres and growing.

It is zero percent contained, according to InciWeb.

On June 16, the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management passed CEM 14-06-16, a resolution declaring a state of emergency for the Assayii Lake Fire, the Nation said in a statement. President Ben Shelly ordered tribal resources to assist with efforts to contain and extinguish the fire.

“I direct all Navajo divisions, departments and programs to commit resources to the Assayii Lake Fire. We need to do all we can to stop the fire from spreading further,” Shelly said in a statement.

As of Wednesday June 18, winds were still high at 18-22 mph and gusting at 32 mph throughout the day, according to InciWeb.

“With warming and drying, we anticipate another day of extreme fire behavior,” InciWeb said, adding that about 50 residences were threatened and an estimated four structures had been destroyed. “However, that is not a firm count. Personnel continue to assess the damages at this time.”

Hotshot crews from Arizona have joined the Navajo Scouts to battle the blaze, the Navajo Nation said.

The human-caused fire has been raging since Friday June 13.

RELATED: Wildfire Sparks Evacuations on Navajo Nation, 11,000 Acres Burned

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/18/state-emergency-navajo-nation-assayii-lake-fire-exceeds-13000-acres-155372

Police to investigate fire at former Marysville mill site

 

By Eric Stevick, The Herald

MARYSVILLE — The city fire marshal has asked police to investigate a Saturday night blaze along the Marysville waterfront that caused a building at the vacant Welco Lumber mill to collapse.

Although no formal cause has been determined, fire marshal Tom Maloney said Sunday that it appears to be neither natural nor accidental. Chances are it was caused by someone either intentionally or unintentionally, he said.

The mill has been closed for several years and has been shelter for squatters and transients in the past.

Firefighters were called to the former mill site off First Street shortly after 10 p.m. The building was in flames and firefighters “went defenive right away,” Maloney said.

It took 30 minutes to get the fire under control.

More than two dozen firefighters helped extinguish the blaze. Crews from Everett, Silvana, Getchell and Tulalip Bay provided aid to Marysville firefighters.

No injuries were reported.

Typically, there have been two to three calls a year for small fires at the site, Maloney said.

The lumber yard, along Ebey Slough, opened in 1987 and closed in mid-2007.

In its heyday, the five-acre mill provided jobs to about 150 people, producing cedar fencing and dimensional lumber that was used primarily in home construction. Welco Lumber closed its Marysville mill with a drop in the area’s home construction market.

In 2010, a 13-year-old Marysville boy told police he set a summer fire that caused extensive damage to the lumber mill. Witnesses reported seeing a group of young people in the area just before the fire started.

Three other Marysville boys, all 13, were identified as being with the suspect at the time of the fire

The city wants the property owners to provide tighter security for the site, Maloney said. It also is considering a citation to compel the owners to get the building cleaned up.

Colville headquarters collapse after fire

Kaitlin Gillespie, The Spokesman Review

NESPELEM, Wash. – Though black plumes of smoke unfurled from the charred remains of the Colville Reservation’s Headquarters on Monday, tribal members just across the street from the ruins lifted a symbol of hope.

Shawnee BearCub and her family built a teepee in honor of their lost history, providing a place of prayer and safety for members of the tribe.

“It’s resilience in the face of adversity,” BearCub said, hoisting the teepee sticks in the air Monday afternoon.

Fire razed the tribe’s headquarters at 1:15 a.m. Monday. It was the second fire in the past year that leveled an important cultural center. The tribe’s longhouse burned in December when a heater malfunctioned. Religious and cultural items including beaded regalia were lost.

Matt Haney, deputy director for public safety for the tribe, said even though firefighters arrived within minutes, fire had engulfed and destroyed the headquarters.

Investigators have not identified the cause of the blaze yet. The fire continued to smolder Monday afternoon. Colville Tribes Fire Cmdr. Chris McCuen said the entire structure dropped into the basement of the building, making it difficult for investigators to determine an origin or a cause.

Arson crews and tribal police were at the scene, but Haney said it’s too early to determine whether the fire was intentionally lit. Firefighters were able to stop the fire from reaching the nearby U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Firefighters worked to keep the blaze contained well into Monday afternoon and evening. All that remained of the three-story structure was a blackened pit in the ground.

This is the first time since 1975 the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are without a central government office, according to a news release. The building housed the Colville Business Council and other administrative offices, leaving about 40 tribal employees without an office. No one was in the building at the time.

The fire destroyed important documents, as well as many cultural and historical items, Haney said.

“There was so much history stored in the building,” he said.

Ricky Gabriel, a member of the Colville Business Council, said the loss of government documents and computers will impede their ability to operate efficiently and administer services.

“The tribe really feels this right now,” Gabriel said.

Fortunately, many documents were backed up and can be accessed.

The tribe has already found a temporary office at the tribal legal offices.

“We’ve lost two very important structures within the community,” BearCub said.

In spite of the recent losses, BearCub said she’s doing her part, however small, to help the community move on from the tragedies. The teepee has been in her family for generations, and she said it will serve as a place of hope and prayer for those mourning the building.

The teepee represents the cycle of life, she said. Just like the administrative building, it can be taken down, but rebuilt, she said.

“My spirit guides me to do these things,” she said.

The building is a tremendous loss to the community, and council members are upset that the building is gone, Gabriel said. He adds, though, that there’s only one way to move from here: forward.

“The building isn’t alive and doesn’t love,” Gabriel said. “People do.”