Washington fire closes state highway

Dan Wheat
The Mills Canyon Fire near Entiat, Wash., has grown to 6,171 acres, closed a state highway and caused the evacuation of 109 homes, but officials are optimistic it won't expand greatly.

ENTIAT, Wash. — Wind pushed the Mills Canyon Fire out of the foothills down to near the Columbia River between Entiat and Wenatchee late July 9, forcing the evacuation of 109 homes and closing state Highway 97A between Wenatchee and Chelan.

The highway closed about 3 p.m. and fire officials don’t have an estimated time of reopening, but motorists are able get between Wenatchee and Chelan using Highway 97 on the east side of the Columbia River.

The fire crossed Highway 97A in a couple of spots and headed toward the river, said Joe Anderson, a spokesman for a state interagency fire team at Entiat High School. Another 122 homes up the Entiat River Road from Entiat up to Roaring Creek were on standby for evacuation, he said.

There was a state mobilization for the fire the evening of July 9, meaning firefighters were called in from various areas in the state. The main effort is protecting the homes along the two rivers, and firefighters are cautiously optimistic the fire can be held from major expansion, Anderson said.

The town of Entiat is not threatened since the fire is on the south side of the Entiat River and the town is on the north side.

There is little concern of the fire reaching Wenatchee because of numerous canyons and ridges and roads that make fire breaks, Anderson said.

The fire spread south of Spencer Canyon, across the river from Orondo, but has not reached Swakane Canyon.

It has burned 6,171 acres and damaged three outbuildings, he said, since starting 12:30 p.m. July 8 at a house in Mills Canyon about four miles southwest of Entiat. That house was damaged and the cause is under investigation, Mick Mueller, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman, said.

The number of firefighters and support staff was at 408 and growing the morning of July 10, Anderson said. Numerous engines and four helicopters worked the fire with three air tankers working as needed from Moses Lake.

A Red Cross shelter for evacuees was moved from Entiat to the Seventh-day Adventist Church at Fifth and Western in Wenatchee.

A public meeting to update Entiat area residents was set for 7 p.m. July 10 at the new Entiat Fire Hall.



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