Two fires totaling 382,815 acres, or nearly 600 square miles, continue to ravage the Colville Reservation in Washington State, with one of them just 45 percent contained.
The North Star and Tunk Block fires have scorched a good 20 percent of the 1.4 million-acre reservation, according to The Spokesman-Review on September 8, which noted they are the largest fires in tribal memory.
As of September 14, the North Star fire had grown to 214,975 acres and was 45 percent contained, while the Tunk Block covered 167,840 and was 79 percent contained, according to the incident reporting site InciWeb.
“The Tunk Block and North Star Fires are both very large,” said InciWeb. “The fires combined are over 590 square miles. That is four times the size of the city of Seattle or about the size of the city of Los Angeles. It is approximately 590 miles from Seattle to Helena, MT.”
The North Star is being fought by 1,265 personnel and the Tunk Block fire by 521. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell toured the North Star fire on September 8 and met with Colville tribal leaders to hear of the devastation being wrought and to voice support for the approximately 1,800 personnel, which she said includes 250 from the Department of the Interior (DOI) itself.
“The men and women who are working to fight these fires are dedicated professionals and true heroes,” Jewell said in a statement at the scene. “Interior and our many partners on the ground are working around the clock to protect local communities, tribal lands, and natural areas that continue to experience the devastating effects of this year’s fire season.”
The Colville Tribes Emergency Services agency called for volunteers and donations to assist hundreds of displaced people who have been evacuated. Dozens have lost their homes.
“The Okanogan Donation Center is in need of VOLUNTEERS!” the agency said on its Facebook page. In addition the North Star Donations Center, located at the old Okanogan-Bingo Casino in Okanogan, was looking for everything from canned food to sleeping bags and toiletries.