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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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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.

Local News
08/09/13

80,000 acre wildfire 75% contained

fire3KITTITAS COUNTY – Firefighters are making good progress on a wildfire that started July 27 near Wenatchee. The blaze scorched tens of thousands of acres on its march towards Ellensburg.

Fire officials say the blaze is 75 percent contained and has grown slightly to 80,801 acres.

All Level 3 evacuations have been either eliminated or downgraded to Level 2, which means all permanent residents are able to return to their homes. Road closures continue to be in effect for parts of Naneum Road and Colockum Road in Kittitas County.

Coming up at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., fire officials will show how they were able to save nearly 30 vacation cabins by utilizing air resources and what’s called “defensible space” around the structures.

KITTITAS COUNTY — For the first time since the big Colockum Tarps wildfire in central Washington started, firefighters are making solid progress.

fire3The fire still covers more than 80,000 acres, but as of late Friday afternoon, it had grown very little in the past 24 hours.

The best news is that families who were forced from their homes by the fire in Chelan County can now go home, but scores of others near Kittitas County are still locked out of their neighborhoods.

“I heard the fire went down through the park creek and up the other side and as far as I’ve heard, no cabins have burned yet,” Henry Bacon said.

Bacon is itching to get a look for himself to see if he still has a cabin down near the fire lines near Kittitas.

Sheriff’s deputies are blocking the roads, so all Bacon can do is wait and wonder.

“I went up to see if I could take a look at my cabin and I haven’t been able to get through,” Bacon said.

The Colockum Tarps Fire has been burning for nearly a week and more than 800 firefighters are battling steep terrain to try and get a line around the blaze. Finally, on Friday, the weather seemed to be on their side.

“We have about six miles of line that we’re continuing to work on,” incident manager Peter Frenzen said. “We’ve got gaps in it, we’ve got areas in it that we still need to strengthen so there’s a lot of good work (that) needs to be done and remains to be done.”

One reason for that progress is a converted DC-10 airliner. For most of the week it’s been dropping 11,000-gallon payloads of water and fire retardant from low altitude. The aircraft was grounded Friday due to the rains, but it could be called into action at any moment.

“We got up here about a week ago. We were on it one day for about five trips and now that the weather changing like it is, we don’t know what’s going on the rest of the day,” said Jack Maxey, pilot of the DC-10. “We could be here or we could be moved to another part of the country.”

So while fire crews continue their fight, property owners like Bacon hope their homes are still standing.

And as long as the weather cooperates, officials are optimistic they might finally get a handle on the fire.

An encampment of 300-400 firefighters will stay the night at Kittitas Elementary School.

There was one aircraft flying over the fire lines on Friday and another searching for signs of new fires from Thursday’s lightning strikes.  Unfortunately, more lightning is in the forecast.

Local News
08/02/13

Firefighters continue around the clock work

fireELLENSBURG, Wash. — Firefighters continue to work day and night to snuff out the Colockum Tarps fire that has burned more than 80,000 acres since Saturday. So far, the cost of fighting the fire has gone higher than $500,000.

Authorities said Thursday was a turning point in the fire, after mother nature brought cool temperatures and less winds. A fire crew of about 800 people worked to contain the blaze at 35 percent. No new homes have burned down recently, and only a few outbuildings were lost in the past few days.

Officials hope the good, cool weather continues.

“The good news is that the rain overnight didn’t get a lot of fire movement from the winds,” Peter Frenzen, the fire incident spokesman, said. “The fire actually in many places was blown back where it had burned before so that’s helping us because its burning some of those un-burned fuels.”

Firefighters are more comfortable getting close to the fire because of damp grass and overnight rains.

ELLENSBURG — The cost of that massive wildfire in central Washington just hit $3.5 million and there’s still plenty of land and homes in harm’s way.

fireThunderstorms are adding fuel to the fire.

The fire is now estimated at 80,000acres, but the good news is it is 35 percent contained.

“Yesterday it did not look good and it was very intense, a lot of smoke, trees torching behind me like Roman candles,” wildfire spokesman Jeff Sevigney said.

That was yesterday (Wednesday) and what a difference a day makes.

On day six of the Colockum Tarps wildfire Thursday, it was still burning in three different areas of Kittitas County near Ellensburg but there was cautious optimism.

“The cooler temperatures that we saw today, the increase in the RH that we saw today, and the rain that we just got in the last half-hour,  I think our firefighters will have a tremendous opportunity to put the finishing touches on this fire that we need,” incident response team member Jen Croft said.

There is less fire and less smoke as firefighters appear to be getting the upper hand on this wildfire, thanks in part to cooler temperatures and rain.

That’s exactly what those who were evacuated wanted to hear.

They came to the Central Washington University campus looking for information about the fire.

Becky Baker evacuated her home yesterday, taking only the things she treasures and needs the most.

“Things that I couldn’t replace, family heirlooms and stuff.  In fact they were already packed from last year and then just getting your necessary items, your checkbook and any paperwork, passports and all that stuff in case your house burned down,” Baker said.

Baker and her neighbors were able to return late Thursday after a level three evacuation order was downgraded to level two.

That means the more than 400 firefighters are getting the job done — with a little help from Mother Nature.

“Mother nature`s got all the cards here, we`re waiting to see – so far she`s dealing us a good hand today but that can change at a moment`s notice,” Sevigney said.

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