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North Star & Tunk Block Fire Incident Command 

North Star & Tunk Block Fires have almost 400 miles of perimeter


Omak, WA -- Weather moderated fire behavior for North Star and Tunk Block Fires early this week but there is still a lot of work to be done.

With more than 360,000 acres of fire, officials calculate that there are more than 370 miles of perimeter between the two fires. North Star Fire has about 195 miles and Tunk Fire has 178 miles excluding the spots and perimeters around unburned islands.

According to a publication produced by the Forest Service in 2011, fireline production rates for a 20 person crew are between 6 and 12 chains per hour for direct fireline and between 4 and 8 chains per hour for indirect fireline.  The rate varies depending on terrain, vegetation type and whether the fire crew is a type 1 or type 2 crew.  Dozer production rates vary greatly depending on the type of dozer, percent slope and the fuel model (or vegetation type).  The range for these two fires is anywhere from 1 to 100 chains per hour depending on location.

“There are about 80 chains in a mile,” said Incident Commander, Ed Lewis, “which means there are almost 30,000 chains of fireline to be secured between these two fires.  Even if the fire behavior continues to be moderated, that’s a lot of work for the fire crews assigned here.”

Some of the terrain on this incident is too steep for either hand crews or dozers to safely build fireline.  The steep ridges on the east flank of the North Star Fire is an example of this.  In those locations, crews will use aerial support to stop the spread of the fire at natural features or to hold the fire in check while they scout for locations to build effective fireline.

Crews will be at it for quite a while, incorporating roads, handline, dozer line and natural features, but no matter the method, line being constructed on North Star and Tunk Block Fires all needs to pass one test first according to Lewis.  “We don’t want our firefighters to build dumb fireline.  Dumb fireline would be line built in places unlikely to hold, or that doesn’t factor in the variables.”

At this point in the season, large fires won’t be completely out until snow blankets the area in the winter.   Between now and then, firefighters will work toward containment and, along contained perimeter, will continue patrolling and monitoring the fire; responding as needed to keep the fire within containment lines.

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