LEAVENWORTH, Wash. — It is an eerie sight behind the Chelan County fire lines near Leavenworth. A red, fiery glow from above and smoke billowing through the trees, casting a darkness that firefighters have to look through.
They are stationed every hundred feet along a closed Highway 2, watching to make sure the wildfire doesn’t hop across the creek and make it to the other side of the road.
The Chiwaukum Creek Fire has consumed more than 6,600 acres, and nearly 900 homes have been told to evacuate.
“It’s nothing to mess around with,” said Stacey Hunter-Ramos, who can’t get to her home. “Mother Nature is pretty scary.”
The winds and dry conditions continue to fuel the fire, but those fighting it could claim victory on Thursday. They managed to keep it from hopping to the other side of Highway 2.
“The fire’s kind of hung up on the highway right now,” said Alex Robinson, Operations Chief. “So that’s where we’re trying to make a stand, coupled with protecting structures.”
The heavy smoke made for “unhealthy” air quality in Leavenworth and Wenatchee, the state said.
The fire forced the closure of U.S. 2 between Leavenworth and Coles Corner Wednesday afternoon — and mandatory evacuation orders were issued for the Tumwater Campground and about 860 homes, authorities said. The plume of smoke rose more than 22,000 feet in the area and could be seen from Tacoma and Seattle.
State fire mobilization was ordered late Wednesday afternoon to try to contain the blaze that the Washington State Patrol said was threatening homes, power infrastructure and tourism.
By Thursday morning more than 300 firefighters were on scene working to get the upper hand on the fire.
“Air support, including a VLAT, or Very Large Air Tanker, is attempting to keep the fire in check,” Chelan County EM said. “Firefighters assigned to the fire, including type 1 hot shot crews, engines and dozers, shifted their focus to point protection when fire growth increased. Given smoke conditions, there is not an accurate acreage to report on the Chiwaukum Creek fire. Closures and evacuation levels continue to change as the fire grows.”
The Red Cross set up a shelter in Leavenworth at the First Baptist Church, 429 Evans St. And the Red Cross shelter in Wenatchee is on standby; it is located at the Seventh Day Adventist Church at Fifth and Western.
So far no homes are believed destroyed.