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Highly Trained Hotshots and Smokejumpers Save Twisp

by Ann McCreary Methow Valley News |

“Highly trained hotshot crews and smokejumpers saved Twisp,” said John Doran, who lives on the Walking D Ranch just north of the Twisp town limits.

On Wednesday evening (Aug. 19), Doran made preparations to fight the fire and watched as flames crested the top of a steep hillside on ranch property about a mile north of the pastures and barn visible from Highway 20.

The fire, which ignited earlier in the day more than 6 miles west, began moving steadily southward along the face of the hillside in the direction of Twisp.

“By the time it hit our family property … the humidity was up and it was creeping and crawling. Hotshot and jumper crews used that to their advantage,” said Doran, who worked as a firefighter and smokejumper for 21 years.

Early in the morning on Thursday (Aug. 20), firefighters “started a precise, gridded burnout” on the south end of the hillside above the barn, Doran said.

Moving from the top of the hill downward, they created lines of fire that merged into each other, consuming vegetation in a controlled burn. Once a section was successfully burned, they moved on to another adjacent section and repeated the process.

“By burning the flash fuels, when the big fire got to the family property it slowed, and became a manageable fire. They were able to nicely shepherd the fire into a defensible position,” Doran said.

“They used the face of the mountain as the stopping ground,” he said. “If they had not been able to stop it when they did and the winds came up when it’s just yards away from the city of Twisp — I call that a save,” Doran said. “This was a killer fire.”

Doran said the successful burnout was conducted by a 20-man crew and eight smokejumpers, although he didn’t know where the firefighters were from. “I was told they put the eight jumpers on it to handle the technical end of the back burn,” he said.

“I cannot compliment the firefighters any higher. Collectively we have a lot to be thankful for and thankful we have well-trained resources available,” Doran said.