The Colville and Warm Springs Indian reservations, as well as the Yakama Nation, are all battling vicious wildfires sweeping across hundreds of square miles of the Northwest.
Those are separate from the Okanagan Complex fire in which three firefighters were killed last week. As hundreds of thousands of acres burned, President Barack Obama on August 21 declared an emergency for Washington State. The order, which makes federal funds available, encompasses several counties as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, according to the declaration.
By far the largest and most unmanageable fire on tribal lands as of Saturday August 22 was the North Star fire on the Colville Indian Reservation, which had consumed 126,522 acres and was zero percent contained. More than 2,000 structures were threatened, according to the incident reporting site Inciweb, and a total of 338 personnel were battling the mega-blaze, which has scorched nearly 200 square miles. Several areas have been evacuated, and forest and recreation areas on the Colville Indian Reservation have been closed to the public “due to extreme fire danger,” InciWeb said.
Initially fire experts feared that the North Star fire had merged with the 124,083-acre Tunk Block fire, which was 38 percent contained by 820 firefighting personnel as of Saturday, according to Inciweb.
“However, this proved to be inconclusive,” InciWeb said. “When more precise mapping is available, fire managers will able to more accurately determine the perimeters of the fires. Forecasted fire behavior for today has potential for large fire growth and very active fire behavior.”
Over in Oregon, the County Line 2 fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, though covering half the area of the North Star at 64,438 acres (100 square miles), was 58 percent contained as of August 22, InciWeb said. That one caused the overnight evacuation last weekend of about 500 guests and staff from the tribe’s Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa, reported the Oregonian.
Elsewhere in Washington State, the Cougar Creek fire in forest land lying partly on the Yakama Nation was 25 percent contained at 25,000 acres.
Resources are stretched so thin that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources put out a call on August 20 for civilian help in fighting the fires, reported KHQ News, a first for the state. More than 3,000 people responded, according to the Associated Press.