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Washington wildfires threaten homes, livelihoods

As many as three wildfires burned across Washington state in the summer of 2013.

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eaglefireOLYMPIA — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is limiting logging and other industrial operations in forested areas of Eastern Washington in an effort to minimize the danger of accidental fires as dry conditions persist.

The DNR announced Friday that the Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPL) will be changed Aug. 26 to limit industrial activities in the eastern slopes of the Cascades in Chelan, Kittitas and Yakima Counties. In a Level 2 alert, cable yarding, blasting ,welding and using chainsaws in the woods can only be done between 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. All operations in forested areas must have fire tools on site, and someone must watch the work for an hour after equipment shuts down to ensure no fire has started.

Even people cutting for firewood must recognize the time restrictions. Chainsaws are allowed at loading sites.

The levels are established for each of 38 “shutdown zones” in the state on the basis of National Fire Danger Rating System data.

Currently, there is a statewide burn ban on 13 million acres of forestlands in Washington. Campgrounds may have additional burn restrictions in place. Campers should check with their campground host or the local fire district before starting a campfire.

Local News
08/22/13

Fire near Leavenworth now 10% contained

LEAVENWORTH — It is now day four for firefighters battling the Eagle Fire near Leavenworth.

plume eagle fireSo far nearly 1,200 acres have burned and dozens of homes are threatened by the blaze that is now 10% contained.

Yesterday, five choppers doused the flames along Eagle Creek Road hoping to preserve their fire lines and save homes. Today looks calm as crews started mopping up hot spots.

Nearly 600 firefighters from across Washington State are now on the ground trying to get a handle on the wild fire.

The steep, dusty terrain is a challenge for firefighters and now the blaze is pushing into places that are even harder to reach.

Survey aircraft keep a close eye on the fire’s movement for now, but the heavy smoke is keeping helicopter pilots from attacking the blaze from the air.

“We really can’t be effective with our air resources because they can’t see what they’re doing until that smoke lifts out,” said incident commander Cody Rohrbach. “It becomes a safety issue for pilots and the folks on the ground.”

Residents placed signs at their driveways thankful for the firefighter’s hard work.

And while it appears crews are gaining the upper hand, evacuated homeowners won’t rest until they are clear to return to their property.

eagle fireLEAVENWORTH, Wash. — The Eagle Wildfire in Chelan County is reaching a turning point with fire crews beginning to see their hard work paying off.

After fighting the fire for three days, crews reached 10 percent containment of the fire Thursday.

Officials estimate that the fire has burned 1,189 acres as of Thursday morning. About 600 firefighters are now fighting the fire, and crews are working around the clock in three shifts and slowly gaining ground.

No one has been injured and the fire has not damaged any property, officials said. However, the growth potential is still very high and the terrain is difficult for crews to navigate. Much of the front lines of the fire are not accessible. Eagle creek Road is closed to the public about 1 mile above the junction with the Chumstick Road.

Despite the factors working against fire fighters, they continue to press on, Fire Information Officer Bernie Pineda said.

“We’ve got a morning shift which is prepping now at this point and then we’ll have an evening shift as well,” Pineda said. “At that rate, with that much work, with that many boots on the ground, and the aircraft that we have, we hope to get this thing closed off before too long.”

Thirty homes are still under a mandatory evacuation order and residents in another 35 homes are ready to leave at a moment’s notice. So far, 596 firefighters were assigned to the fire. Nine hand crews, five helicopters and one heavy helicopter used for dipping water were utilized.

Fire growth continues to slow, officials said, as favorable weather conditions exist, especially on the west and south sides of the blaze.

The American Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at the Middle School at 10195 Titus Road in Leavenworth and it is staffed 24 hours a day.  For information or to donate, call the Wenatchee Red Cross at 663-3907.

Fires producing potentially harmful smoke can be of concern to elderly, young children, and anyone with respiratory health conditions and those persons may need to limit outdoor activities and to take precautions by staying indoors until smoke conditions improve. For more information on air quality:  http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/local.html.

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. — The Eagle Wildfire near Leavenworth continues to burn at an alarming rate and fire crews are gaining little ground. The fire has grown to 1,500 acres since it started on Monday. Crews say they have 0% containment so far.

eagle fireThe fire is not threatening the town of Leavenworth but several homes are in its path. So far, folks in 30 homes are under a mandatory evacuation notice and another 35 buildings are under level two evacuation.

The number of fire fighters on the scene has doubled since Wednesday. Now 300 firefighters are working to stop the blaze on the ground. There are also a number of helicopters being used to fight the fire.The fire has not burned any structures so far.

We will have live reports all morning long from Leavenworth. We will also receive updated information from officials this morning as well.

LEAVENWORTH — The Eagle Fire continues to burn in the hills above Leavenworth, threatening some homes. So dozens of people showed up at a community meeting Wednesday night hoping to find out more about how the firefight is going.

smoke“I looked at the map today,” resident Michael Sutton said. “This fire, the way the crow flies, is two miles from me.”

Thirty homes have already been evacuated, and warnings have already gone out to another 35. The Suttons are getting ready, in case they’re next.

“I worry about my wife, my granddaughter, we just bought land up the Chumstick two years ago.”

Although this fire started and grew to 1,500 acres quickly, Sutton said he’s not really surprised. He said this area of the state is prone to wildfires.

“You can see the brown trees, those are the pine beetles that have moved into this area,” he said. “We’ve got the pine beetles, it’s dry, it’s been hot.”

That’s why there have already been several fires this season. Many of the firefighters on the Eagle Fire were on the nearby Colockum Tarps and Mile Post 10 fires earlier this month.

“It’s been busy,” says fire information officer Rick Scriven. ”When Mother Nature comes into play sometimes, that’s what happens. You go and try and manage and mitigate.”

The terrain in the area is steep, so firefighters spent much of the day doing air drops, and starting fire lines to try and keep the fire from spreading. Sutton is hoping crews will start to get control before his home is in danger. But he understands that living here means there’s always a risk.

“Wildfires are just Mother Nature’s way of saying we got all this dead stuff; it’s time to clean it up.”

A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at Icicle River Middle School in Leavenworth for anyone who has been displaced by the fire.

LEAVENWORTH — The wildfire near Leavenworth is burning out of control right now and nearly 300 firefighters from across the state are on the front lines.

smokeFive helicopters are working together, dropping 300 gallons of water onto the flames as hundreds of firefighters on the ground continue to dig into the dirt trying to contain the fire. It’s been a busy fire season in central Washington this summer.

“From the Colockum Tarps fire, to the Mile Post 10 fire, and now this one’s a sizeable fire in the Leavenworth area — we’ve been busy,” Rick Isaacson with the Chelan County Fire District 1 said.

Firefighters are working in steep terrain, where fire trucks and hoses can’t go while fallen trees also pose a danger. “You’ll get logs and debris that will catch on fire and it just starts a momentum and rolls down the hill starting more fire as it rolls down the hill into more debris and more brush,” Isaacson said.

Thirty homes are under Level 3 mandatory evacuations, and about 35 more families are being told to pack up and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. And Chelan County sheriff’s deputies were checking IDs of homeowners trying to get behind the roadblocks to save their property.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it could have rekindled after firefighters doused a blaze nearby last week.

“It’s a possibility,” Isaacson said. “There was a lightning strike about a week ago and the crews came in and took care of it. Sometimes — once in a great while — it gets down in the root system someplace you can’t get to and pops back up under the ideal conditions.”

A community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cascade High School in Leavenworth where fire officials will be answering questions from the public. The Red Cross has also set up an emergency shelter at Icicle River Middle School for families that don’t have anywhere else to go.

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. — The Eagle Fire burning in the Eagle Creek Drainage area of the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forrest grew to 1,500 acres and forced homeowners to evacuate their homes Wednesday morning.

The fire, which was zero percent contained Wednesday, continues to grow. Thirty homes were placed under a Level 3 mandatory evacuation. Level 3 evacuation means homes are in imminent danger and residents must leave. Thirty other homes were placed under Level 2 evacuations, meaning residents should be able to leave at a moment’s notice.

So far, no homes or structures have been lost in the fire. The fire was detected Monday afternoon near the top of a ridge between Eagle Creek and Bjork Canyon in timber and grass.The Eagle fire is burning near the top of a ridge between Eagle Creek and Bjork Canyon with winds pushing it northeast, away from Leavenworth but homes are in the fire’s path.

Firesfighters from King and Pierce County were sent east to help battle the blaze.

 

Local News
08/21/13

Crews race to battle Eagle Wildfire

eaglefire1LEVEANWORTH, Wash. — The Eagle Wildfire continues to rage out of control this morning in central Washington as fire fighters from all over the state mobilize.

Authorities say the blaze doubled in size in a matter of hours. Crews say the fire is approximately 500 acres and fire fighters have 0% containment. The fire is just five miles northeast of the town of Leavenworth, WA.

The local sheriff’s office has evacuated 21 homes so far but dozens more are on level two evacuation notice and residents could be told to leave at a moment’s notice.

Crews say the terrain is extremely difficult, inaccessible in some areas. Authorities say this could be the most dangerous fire of the season for fire fighters as it is buring in some dense woods and flames are leaping from tree top to tree top.

A public meeting was held last night for about 100 residents. Another meeting is scheduled for tonight as well.

We will continue to update our website with the latest information.

LEAVENWORTH — Washington firefighters once again find themselves in harm’s way. More than 120 are trying to stop the Eagle Wildfire that’s burning in steep terrain five miles northeast of Leavenworth. And more from King County and East Pierce County are headed to help.

eaglefire1The fire started Monday about 2 p.m., grew to 160 acres Monday night, 250 acres by Tuesday morning and by Tuesday night 500 acres, still growing with 0 percent containment.

The Eagle fire is burning near the top of a ridge between Eagle Creek and Bjork Canyon with winds pushing it northeast, away from Leavenworth but homes are in the fire’s path.

“I’ve lived in this territory all my life and I’ve seen lots and lots of fires,” homeowner Brian Hinthorne said

In fact, Hinthorne is a former firefighter.

His home is safe, for now, but he sees in this fire the potential for great destruction.

“In most summer conditions a fire at that location is very dangerous.  That could really go miles and cause a lot of trouble,” Hinthorne said.

Sixty-five homes are affected along Eagle Creek.

Most are under Level 2 evacuation orders, which means prepare to leave but 21 are currently under Level 3 mandatory evacuation orders.

A lot of the firefighters on the front lines of the Eagle wildfire were also on the front lines of the Colockum Tarps fire but this one is different and potentially a lot more dangerous.

“The Colockum Tarps was a lot of light and medium fuels.  This has light, medium and some heavy fuels in it.  Over the back side some of the bigger smoke you’re seeing in the background that’s timber that’s burning,” Eagle wildfire spokesman Rick Isaacson said.

Tall trees that can burn fast, extremely hot and jump from treetop to treetop.

“It’s burning in really steep terrain.  It’s mountainous up here so you get steep sides on both sides.  It’s hard to fight the fire,” Isaacson said.

Some 120 firefighters are on the job and that number is expected to grow to more than 300 in the coming hours and days.

The fight is very aggressive from the air to protect homes and lives on the ground.

“We’ve got a bomber going through with retardant.  We’ve got three helicopters that we’re working this afternoon,” Isaacson said.

Late Tuesday evening, homeowners gathered at the Chelan Fire District 3 station to get information and comfort.

“Apparently the fire has been inching closer to our place so they would like us to leave, if not tonight certainly at an hour’s notice,” homeowner Tom Harnly said.

Harnly’s home is under a Level 2 evacuation order.

He’s concerned about his home, but more so about firefighters on the front lines.

“I feel almost embarrassed that we have our home out in the woods in these exposed areas that put young men and some women at grave risk to protect our homes.  I feel a little guilty about that,” Harnly said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is suspected it may be a sleeper — that is a fire potentially started by a lightning strike during last week’s storm.

Embers may have smoldered underground and then reignited Monday afternoon.

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