Information on the Newby Lake Fire in the Loomis Forest

Information on the Newby Lake Fire in the Loomis Forest

Conservation Northwest / Jul 21, 2015 / Lynx, Wildfire

Loomis Forest/NRCA landscape
By George Wooten, Conservation Associate

According to a July 23rd update, the Newby Lake Fire is now 95 percent contained.

A medium-sized wildfire, the Newby Lake Fire, is presently burning in the area of the Loomis State Forest (also known as the Loomis Natural Resource Conservation Area), important Canada lynx habitat which Conservation Northwest saved from logging in 1999. 

The fire is the result of a July 2nd lightning strike in British Columbia’s Snowy Protected Area. It spread across the international border into the northeastern corner of the Pasayten Wilderness Area and northwestern corner of the Loomis State Forest. The fire’s size peaked at over 5,065 acres (on the U.S. side) in mid-July. On July 20th it was reported at 30% percent containment.

As of July 21st, responders report the fire is nearing containment, though threats remain. Below is the July 20th update from InciWeb NW:

Firefighters continued to secure and mop up the eastern and southern portions of the fire. Crews constructed fire line west from the Middle Fork of Toats Coulee Creek toward the wilderness boundary. The northern and northeast portions of the fire were patrolled by air, and no significant fire activity was detected. Contingency fire line construction within Nine Mile Creek and Branch Creek progressed.

The Type 1 Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team #3 is transitioning the management of the fire to a Type 3 Incident Management Team. The Type 3 team will assume management of the fire tomorrow at 6:00 am. Ed Lewis, Incident Commander of the Pacific Northwest Team #3 would like to thank the community for its support and all who helped in the fire suppression effort.

Firefighters will continue to scout out the location and construct direct fire line west of the Middle Fork of Toats Coulee Creek to the Tripod Fire scar. Mop up of hot spots at the southeastern and southern sections of the fire will continue. Air patrol of the northern and northeast sectors of the fire will be on-going. Construction of the contingency line in Nine Mile Creek and Branch Creek will also continue.

Since 2001, fires in the area have tended to be large, with the 2006 Tripod fire topping out at 175,000 acres. These fires form large mosaics of lodgepole pine, which burn on the order of every 100 years or so.

The Loomis Forest and Pasayten Wilderness are lynx habitat, prone to large wildfires especially in dry years like this one. However, the area is bounded by alpine tundra (which creates passive fire lines) as well as the recently burned acres of the Tripod Fire, which we are hopeful will help contain the spread of the Newby Lake- Fire. Rain showers expected later this week may continue to dampen the blaze and help containment efforts.

The area is also home to pine martens, hoary marmots, bighorn sheep, black bears and the occasional grizzly bear. Recent decades have seen the decline of grizzly bear sightings, damages to lynx habitat (due to the Tripod fire), hoary marmots (unknown causes but may be related to an influx of Columbia ground squirrels), and declines in other boreal species such as ptarmigan. Following large fires, woodpeckers such as the fire-dependent black-backed woodpecker become common for several years. Habitat for mule deer and other species also improves in initial years following many fires.

An area closure remains in place on all National Forest Lands and WA DNR lands affected by the fire. For the most up-to-date trail, road and campground closure information on National Forest and Washington DNR lands, please contact the appropriate land management agency or visit their websites and the links below:

We will be sharing more updates on this fire if new information becomes available. Thank you to our members and donors for your continued support of the Loomis Forest!