CNW Fire Dispatch #7 – Colleagues evacuated from Nespelem

CNW Fire Dispatch #7 – Colleagues evacuated from Nespelem

Conservation Northwest / Aug 28, 2015 / Wildfire

Firefighters working hard to find and extinguish hot spots on the North Star Fire. Photo: Inciweb

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh of our dispatches from staff that live or work in the areas impacted by this year’s fires. Dispatch #1Dispatch #2Dispatch #3Dispatch #4Dispatch #5Dispatch #6.

Jay Kehne lives and works in Omak, Washington. He leads our Wolf Conflict Avoidance Program, including the Range Rider Pilot Project, and also works on habitat connectivity and restoration projects including the Working for Wildlife Initiative in Okanogan County. 

By Jay Kehne, Conservation Associate

This photo is from Saturday, August 22nd of Azzura, her husband Steven and I (taken by Casey, another student who has worked as a range rider). They are researchers from Washington State University who had to evacuate from south of Nespelem this past weekend because of the North Star Fire. They stayed at our place in Omak for a night, before heading down to Pullman.

Jay, Azzura and Steven in Omak

These folks are doing incredibly important research on the interactions between wolves and livestock as these native predators recover in our region. This includes how wolf presence, as well as the presence of range riders or herd supervisors, might impact cattle weight loss, stress and other outcomes. The study is part of the WSU Large Carnivore Lab, led by Dr. Rob Wielgus. Their finds will be important for guiding both wolf and livestock management over the coming years.

While the WSU researchers were here, we watched the fires burning on ridges by Omak Lake from our deck, and had some pasta, salad and Fireball to calm the nerves. Unfortunately their study is most likely over for the year. They had contact with the Stacy’s (ranchers involved in the WSU study and our Range Rider Pilot Project) who bravely stayed and defended their home north of Nespelem. The work they did showed up on the fire map as it split the North Star fire in two as it went around their place. Carl and Trish Stacy think they lost at least eleven cattle over the weekend. The fire passed them on Saturday within a quarter mile of their place, but now it’s poised to come back around and threaten them again.Cow scat

Our range riding intern who had been working with the Stacy’s has been sent home, and further range riding at the Stacy’s ranch may be done for the year because of fire-related constraints. Azzura also evacuated her cow scats, which can provide data on cattle health and disposition. They’re in the small refrigerator in the photo to the right.

One of these “cow pies” Azzura jokingly called the “million dollar scat”. It came from a close encounter of cattle and wolves that should provide data about stress hormones in cattle in close proximity to wolves. We had a freezer full of cow pies on our deck Saturday night. A funny story in a week without much comedy.

Inciweb has the latest update on the North Star fire from Friday here, including some new evacuations. As of Friday afternoon it is only 22 percent contained.

For the latest official fire updates, we recommend Inciwebthis GIS map, and the Okanogan County Emergency ManagementChelan County Emergency ManagementColville Tribes Emergency ServicesStevens County Fire District #1 and Ferry County Sheriff’s Office / 911 Facebook pages.

We also want to express deep gratitude to all the firefighters, first responders, National Guard, U.S. Army servicemen and women, and all the other heroes working to keep our communities safe during this demanding fire season. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted.