Washington Fires Affect PCT Hikers

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Washington firefighters have an impossible task: keeping structures safe and determining when people need to evacuate.

Believe me, a lot of people have been evacuated. So you gotta be impressed when they bring in a crew to fight the fire near Chelan just to open up the PCT!

We don’t want to downplay the importance of safety here, but when you only have the LAST LEG -less than 200 miles- to complete a 2,600+ mile thru-hike….well, it can be heartbreaking.

Kudos to the firefighters for trying. Here’s to their success!

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STEHEKIN — With more than 800 hikers still headed north on the Pacific Crest Trail, unusual steps will be taken to try to reopen a section of the trail that has been closed by a wildfire.

One of the top firefighting crews in the country will be flown in to try to corral the blaze along the popular hiking trail.

Wildland fire agencies typically don’t put firefighters into such inaccessible and rugged areas to fight fires that aren’t an imminent public threat.

“There’s a lot of interest in reopening the PCT,” said fire spokesman Wayne Patterson. “It’s a very popular recreation area.”

The fire is burning on either side of the trail as it follows Agnes Creek near Mount Blankenship, about 13 miles west of the head of Lake Chelan.

A detour hiking route that bypasses Holden Village was closed late last month after another fire, the Wolverine fire, began moving that direction.

The good news is that the bulk of the northbound PCT hikers have still not reached the closure area. An estimated 150 hikers have already gone through but more than 800 hikers are thought to still be coming up the trail.

“I wouldn’t do it,” (Haskell) said. “I would just skip it and come back another time.”

Some of this year’s hikers have done just that, said Andrea Dinsmore, a “trail angel” who lives just west of Stevens Pass and helps PCT hikers all summer. But for many others, “after coming this far, one way or another they are going to get this done.”

On Monday, members of a Hotshot crew flew over the fire to assess their options. They identified a helicopter landing spot near the fire, and fire officials made the decision to fly a crew in.

Patterson said firefighters may work on containment lines or they may install a water pump system in Agnes Creek that would spray water on the fire along the trail in that area.

Whatever course they take, fire officials will not jeopardize firefighters’ or hikers’ lives to open the trail, Patterson said.

“This is not a fire we would put folks on if not for the PCT,” he said.

Haskel said the Pacific Crest Trail Association respects whatever decision fire officials make regarding the trail closure.

“They have to weigh all these complicated management issues — wilderness values, recreational use of public land, the value of letting fires burn, the safety of firefighters, the cost of firefighting,” he said. “They are the best in the world at what they are doing. And whatever decision they make is the right one.”

Read the article here: http://www.chronline.com/crime/top-crew-will-fight-chelan-area-fire-to-open-pacific/article_216c4bd4-412a-11e5-a396-b3c2be8c6500.html
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