TOWNSEND — As firefighters continue to report good progress against the Deep Creek Canyon Fire, authorities are starting to scale back their response.
As of Wednesday morning, the 4,648-acre fire burning in the hills between Townsend and White Sulphur Springs was 90% contained.
The Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team – a multiagency team that took over the fire last week – is now preparing to hand responsibility back to local authorities.
“We’ve had a big team on a slightly smaller incident, so we’re able to get out and put boots on the ground all the way around and actually get a fire out – instead of doing this transition from team to team to team like it has been on years past on some of these bigger fires,” said Hunter Bell, the team’s structure protection specialist.
Crews have completed lines around much of the fire. On Wednesday, they had shifted their focus to the northwest edge, in an attempt to secure the remaining perimeter and contain hot spots.
“The challenge with this incident has been that, on the north side of the fire, it threw a huge number of spots way out in front of the fire,” Bell said. “Some of them are as small as a 3-by-3 area, and some of them are 20 or 30-acre spots. It’s a challenge for those guys up there to get to every point up there.”
The Deep Creek Canyon Fire has destroyed three residences and four other structures. Bell said they have been able to prevent additional structure loss since the fire’s dramatic wind-driven growth last Tuesday.
He estimated the fire had been held about a mile and a half from the Grassy Mountain subdivision – not very far, considering that wildfires can quickly move several miles in certain weather conditions.
“The conditions are horrific this year – nice and dry,” he said. “So with wind patterns, it can move really fast.”
The fire left more than three miles of powerlines on the ground. Vigilante Electric Cooperative reported Wednesday that they had installed 52 out of a planned 58 replacement poles, and they planned to have power to the Grassy Mountain subdivision restored on Thursday.
At its height, more than 450 personnel were working on the Deep Creek Canyon Fire. By Wednesday, more than 100 of them had already been released, with more to come. The Northern Rockies team is set to turn over command on the fire Thursday evening.
Bell praised the work that local first responders did on the fire before the Type 1 team arrived.
“The local guys do the lion’s share of the work when it starts,” he said. “Those guys, the volunteers that come out and do that kind of work, are the real heroes here.”
Authorities estimate the total cost of the Deep Creek Canyon Fire at $4.7 million. You can find updated information on the fire on Inciweb.