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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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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.

Local News
08/20/13

Eagle Fire grows to 250 acres

eaglefireLEAVENWORTH, Wash. — A wildfire burning five miles northeast of Leavenworth in the Eagle creek Drainage area of the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forrest grew to 250 acres Monday night.

The fire was detected Monday afternoon near the top of a ridge between Eagle Creek and Bjork Canyon in timber and grass. Overnight, the fire moved in a north- north easterly direction and also backed downhill toward a few structures, the U.S. Fire Service said.

Smoke from the fire drifted east overnight, settling in low areas.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office has ordered a Level I evacuation notice for residents along Eagle Creek Road from milepost two east to where the pavement ends. A Level I evacuation means residents should prepare for an evacuation and stay alert for further information.  There are two structures under a Level 2 evacuation notification which means they should be prepared to leave at a moments notice. Fire managers advised nearby residents to close doors and windows to keep it from entering structures.

Over 120 firefighting personnel and resources including two air tankers, two helicopters, multiple fire engines, a bulldozer and two 20-person crews are fighting the fire.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

eaglefireLEAVENWORTH — About 120 federal, state and local firefighters were working late Monday to suppress a 40-acre wildfire burning on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Wenatchee River Ranger District about five miles northeast of Leavenworth, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The Eagle Fire was detected at about 2 p.m. Monday and is burning near the top of a ridge between Eagle Creek and Bjork Canyon in timber and grass, east of the Chumstick Highway, it said. The cause is under investigation.

Westerly winds were pushing the fire mostly upslope in a northeasterly direction Monday afternoon, along Bjork Canyon and away from structures along Eagle Creek Road.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office had ordered a Level I evacuation notice for residents along Eagle Creek Road from milepost two east to where the pavement ends. A Level I evacuation means residents should prepare for an evacuation and stay alert for further information.

Fire managers are requesting the public avoid Eagle Creek Road for firefighter and public safety. Eagle Creek residents are asked to use Derby Canyon Road (Forest Service Road 7400) to exit the area.

On Monday afternoon, firefighting resources included an air tanker, two helicopters, six smoke-jumpers, four rappellers, five fire engines, a dozer and two 20-person crews. Additional resources were being ordered, including another bulldozer and other engines.

Firefighters involved in suppressing the fire on Monday were with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, and Chelan County Fire District 3, 6 and 9.

Smoke from the fire was drifting mostly east Monday night, but was expected to settle in low areas such as Eagle Creek in the late evening and early morning hours. Fire managers advise nearby residents to close doors and windows to keep from entering structures.

Fire managers with federal, state and local agencies were thankful some nearby residents had worked closely with the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition (http://www.chumstickcoalition.org/) to reduce forest fuels near residences to make it safer for firefighters to defend them.

“At times like this, the work of groups like the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition can be instrumental in successful fire suppression,” said Public Information Officer Mick Mueller. “Residents who worked with the coalition are in a much better place.”

 

WENATCHEE — Storms helped firefighters get control of a wildfire burning in Central Washington. The Mile Marker 10 Fire, which was sparked by lightning Friday night, is now 70% contained.

BRgpf0SCIAIogWBBut some crews had to hike to the fire lines Monday, because the rain caused mudslides and several roads were blocked near Malaga. Residents also had to wait for trucks to clear the debris, to get in and out of their neighborhood.

A community meeting was held at the Malaga Fire Station Monday night. Residents were told that all Level 2 & 3 evacuation orders are being lifted.

“Reducing those evacuation levels should make everyone feel a lot more comfortable about this fire tonight,” says public information officer Michelle Peterschick.

But she says residents should still be alert, since most of the region is still dry and fire season is not over.

Local News
08/12/13

Wildfire sparked by lightning rages on

milepost 10 fire

From Inciweb.org

MALAGA, Wash. — Hundreds of fire fighters have shifted focus from one fire to another in central Washington after lightning possibly ignited another blaze near the town of Malaga.

Currently, the fire has burned more than 6,000 acres and is only 15 percent contained. Overnight rain on Sunday helped and hindered fire fighting efforts.

The rain helped keep the fire from spreading but caused flash flooding in the area. a number of area roads are completely washed out and firefighters are having difficulty getting to the front lines of the blaze.

Level III evacuations are in effect for parts of Malaga and Kingsbury. About 150 structures are being threatened. Powerlines are also in the path of this blaze.

Officials said the growth potential is extreme and the terrain is difficult to navigate.

Local News
08/09/13

Colockum wildfire 75% contained

KITTITAS — It’s been nearly two weeks since one of the state’s largest wildfires erupted outside Wenatchee.

nomexThe Colockum Tarps fire is now 75% contained and evacuated homeowners have returned to their properties.

Luckily, only a handful of buildings were lost in the blaze.

Firefighters are still digging lines into the dirt, hoping to completely contain the fire in the next few days.

Helicopters are still dropping huge buckets of water on the fire lines in an effort to protect property and seal off what’s left of the fire.

“We identified 88 structures in these drainages around here,” said Doug Bleeker with Spokane County Fire District. “I don’t have enough trucks to defend every house that’s out there.”

As always, job one is keeping homes intact. But nearby sagebrush, trees and even patio furniture can make a difference in whether a home burns to the ground or survives.

Creating a buffer free of flammable materials around structures explains how dozens of local cabins survived this massive fire.

Last week Linda Anderson scrambled to protect her animals last week when sheriff’s deputies evacuated her neighborhood.

Today, she was finally able to go back home.

“Very, very tired today,” said Anderson. “We got everything unpacked.

She and her neighbors were grateful to get back to normal.

“I’ve seen the bravest people in the world come up to help save these homes and assure these families that they’re taking care of things,” said Janette Paulson.

Now fire officials are reminding homeowners how critical it is to create defensible space around their properties to reduce fire risk.

“It doesn’t mean you need to look like you built your house in the middle of a Walmart parking lot,” said Bleeker. “It does mean you need to take a look at those fuels an on a worst day, what’s it going to look like and what’s do you need to do to bust that fuel bed up so that it is going to survive on its own.”

The high humidity has really been helping crews stomp this thing out.

Thunderstorms are in the forecast for tonight and over the weekend – so firefighters are keeping an eye out for lightning, and hoping for the best.

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