Hundreds evacuated in Eastern Washington wildfires

10:22 PM PDT on Friday, July 30, 2004

From Staff and Wire Reports

A new wildfire near Cle Elum in Kittitas County has prompted evacuation warnings for at least 200 homes.

ELLENSBURG, Wash. - A fast-moving wildfire between Cle Elum and Ellensburg forced the evacuation of about 200 homes late Friday in the eastern foothills of the Cascades after 25 mph winds fanned the blaze to more than 200 acres in just a few hours.

A state of emergency was declared for Kittitas County and statewide mobilization has been requested by the county for additional attack teams to assist with defense of homes in the fire area.

A spokesman with the Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center in Portland, Oregon says the Indian John fire is burning near milepost 90 near Thorpe Prairie Road.

Five structures have been lost so far in the newest fire that was reported near Interstate 90 between Cle Elum and Ellensburg at about 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Firefighters were concerned the fire could jump the Yakima River, Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers said.

The evacuation was ordered for the Morrison Canyon and Sunlight Waters developments.

No details on the size or cause of the fire.

Three fires near Lake Chelan

Earlier in the day, authorities in northcentral Washington ordered the evacuation of 100 homes after a wildfire near Lake Chelan grew to 10,000 acres in 24 hours.

Courtesy: Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team
The Deep Harbor fire started in steep terrain near Lake Chelan, Wash.

The Deep Harbor fire near Lake Chelan did not burn any new structures Friday and no injuries were reported, said Mike Ferris, a Forest Service spokesman at the fire command post.

On Thursday, it destroyed a dock and picnic shelter at a campground, he said.

The Deep Harbor evacuations, many affecting vacation homes, were ordered Friday morning, and firefighters concentrated their efforts on keeping flames away from the structures. The fire was burning about 2-1/2 miles from the nearest home.

Later Friday, heavy smoke prevented aerial surveys to determine if the blaze had grown, or was closer to merging with the nearby Pot Peak fire.

Three fires - Pot Peak at 15,500 acres, Sisi Ridge at 345 and Deep Harbor - are being fought jointly by about 625 firefighters.

None of the three blazes threatens the communities of Chelan or Stehekin.

Smoke from those fires was so bad Friday that the Chelan-Douglas Health District issued an alert warning people with respiratory and heart conditions, the elderly and children to stay inside.

Fire managers and Chelan County officials ordered the evacuation of about 100 homes in the Fields Point community, about 25 miles northwest of the town of Chelan. Twenty-Five Mile Creek campground on the lake was closed because of the blaze.

By late Friday afternoon, no one had yet showed up at a shelter set up in Chelan for fire evacuees, fire information officer Debbie Kelly said.

The Deep Harbor fire was started by lightning July 19 and had burned only 145 acres until Thursday, when winds began to expand it.

Sisi Ridge also was started by lightning on July 19. Pot Peak was started by lightning on June 26.

Lightning had started the Deep Harbor fire a week ago, and firefighters initially thought the small fire would die out due to the steepness of the terrain, said Chelan County Sheriff Mike Harum. But winds shifted and the fire to grew downlake toward Lake Chelan and residents.

Since the fire was burning in steep, rocky terrain along the lakeshore, ground crews have been unable to access the fire. Winds, coupled with heat and very dry conditions, were also making fighting conditions very dangerous, so crews were primarily battling the blaze from the air, using helicopters to drop water onto the blaze. Fire crews said the bulk of their efforts Friday will be to establish a burnout line.

"We going to try to establish an indirect line where we can begin a burnout operation," said Mike Farris with the U.S. Forest Service. "Try to get a line from the topof the ridge from somewhere around Grouse Mountain down to the lakeshore to try to cut it off."

Farris said they had enough resources to battle the blaze, and hot shot crews were expected to arrive and provide additional assistance.


Pictures of Deep Harbor fire

Special wildfire section

The Chelan-Douglas Health District has issued a health alert for the Lake Chelan area because of the wildfire smoke. The low-level alert warns people with respiratory and heart conditions, the elderly and children to avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.

The Deep Harbor fire already had burned through two campgrounds on the south shore of the lake, gobbling up a dock and picnic shelter. The fire is part of a complex of fires in the Lake Chelan area that have burned about 20,000 acres.

The campgrounds at Graham Creek and Graham Harbor Creek, reachable only by boat, had previously been swathed in fire-protective wrap by firefighters, but the blaze burned the dock and picnic shelter at Graham Harbor Creek, spokeswoman Pam Sichting said.

No injuries were reported. The Red Cross set up a shelter at Chelan High School for displaced residents.



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