Personnel have contained 8% of the Cowlitz Complex Fires that encompass 697 acres within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. A lightning storm in late August ignited more than 40 fires across the forest’s northernmost portion in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District. More than 400 people continue to work on the burns. Fire is a rarity in the majority of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, said Jared Hohn, incident commander of the Rocky Mountain Complex management team. This has resulted in the accumulation of a thick bed of highly flammable unburned leaves, pine needles and cones, branches and logs… To contain fires, crews must create a control line by digging through duff until they reach mineral soil, which can be at least 5 feet deep. Hohn said crews then identify heat sources smoldering below the surface, but a duff’s depth can make this difficult, resulting in officials’ hesitancy in announcing whether a fire is contained.