[11/5/21] Report: Cub Creek 2 Fire Started By Torch

Posted in Breaking News, Fire and EMS

It all started with a propane torch being used on a hot, windy day. When it was over, more than 70-thousand acres had been burned.

That’s according to the state Department of Natural Resources investigation into the cause of the Cub Creek 2 fire, which started July 16th. According to the report, obtained by the Methow Valley News, Investigator Will Knowlton wrote, quoting here, “Based on the fire pattern indicators observed, evidence located at the scene, and statements obtained, it was determined that the Cub Creek 2 wildfire was started when [property owner] Mr. Mike O’Connor utilized a hand-held propane torch to assist him in fixing his irrigation system and the flame from the torch came into contact with receptive fuels starting the large wildfire.”

The fire started near the intersection of West Chewuch Road and Cub Creek Road, about 5 miles north of Winthrop, at around 1:22 p.m. July 16th. Okanogan County Fire District 6 arrived just minutes later, followed by Forest Service and DNR firefighters. Knowlton arrived at about 2:40 p.m. to investigate the origin and cause of the fire.

Knowlton noted that county and state burn bans were in place at the time, which, quoting again, “prior to the ignition of this fire should have been considered before he,” meaning Mike O’Connor, “used an open flame in an area with heavy receptive fuels.”

Once the area had cooled, Knowlton found a hand-held propane torch in plain view on the ground, and a pump with a plastic milk jug on top of it. Near the propane torch, Knowlton found a ratchet, an eyeglass case, a razor blade, and a pair of shears. Knowlton confirmed with O’Connor that the items belonged to him.

The fire had grown to more than 1,000 acres by 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, and threatened about 100 homes, By 9 p.m., it had grown to more than 3,000 acres.

DNR staff are sending the investigation report to the state Attorney General’s Office for review and assessment of the incident for a recommendation as to whether to move forward with cost recovery.

The final incident report on the Cub Creek 2 Fire from Oct. 1 put the size at 70,168 acres. Suppression costs came to more than 27 million dollars.