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Fire chief: Lightning started 1,300 acre Chelan County wildfire

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Wildfire in Chelan County. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

MALAGA, WASH. — Investigators say lightning struck a power pole which sparked a 1,300-acre wildfire near Wenatchee.

According to a preliminary investigation, lightning hit a power distribution pole which sent pieces of fiery wood flying up to 65-feet away from the pole

Nearly 40 homes were told on Wednesday to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. That evacuation order has been eased, meaning homeowners can stay, but they should keep a close watch on the fire.

Even firefighters are saying the speed of the fire growth caught them by surprise.

A helicopter doused the flames with water from above. Nearly four miles of land is scorched.  Wednesday’s 25-35 mph winds meant firefighters had to play catchup.

“At one point a division supervisor was driving along, saying he’s doing 15 miles an hour and just keep up ahead of the fire,” said Chelan County Fire District 1 Chief, Mike Burnett.

Utility crews scrambled to replace torched power poles that knocked out energy to nearly 400 customers. The power is back on-line — but neighbors worry fire season is off to a fast start.

“Here we go again,” laughed resident Georgia Ridge.

Wildfires forced her family to evacuate twice last year. Huge plumes of smoke billowed into the sky on Wednesday, but the fire appears to be calming down on Thursday.

But Ridge wasn’t taking any chances this time around.

“Grab the medicines and a back pack,” said Ridge. “Start packing up in case we gotta split.”

Firefighters say slower winds and higher humidity helped knock the fire back Thursday, but the dry earth still worries firefighters.

“It’s unusually dry fuels,” said Burnett. “We’ve had multiple fires that grown larger than we had normally expected. This is still May.”

Burnett estimates the fire is almost 90% contained, but they’re still mopping up hot spots.

Higher temperatures expected this year has firefighters worried that 2014 could be a very busy fire season.

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