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Late wildfire damages Washington orchard

A late season wildfire just northwest of Wenatchee, Wash., burned about 1,100 acres of federal and private grassland and did $50,000 to $100,000 in damage to an apple orchard.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on November 3, 2017 1:25PM

Firefighters spray water on hot spots along burned fenceline and poplar trees on the edge of Panorama Orchard northwest of Wenatchee, Wash., on Nov. 2. A wildfire burned 1,100 acres, mostly grassland, the day before.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

Firefighters spray water on hot spots along burned fenceline and poplar trees on the edge of Panorama Orchard northwest of Wenatchee, Wash., on Nov. 2. A wildfire burned 1,100 acres, mostly grassland, the day before.

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Part of the 1,100 acres burned in a wildfire northwest of Wenatchee, Wash.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

Part of the 1,100 acres burned in a wildfire northwest of Wenatchee, Wash.

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A fire truck monitors hot spots along the edge of Panorama Orchard northwest of Wenatchee, Wash., on Nov. 2.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

A fire truck monitors hot spots along the edge of Panorama Orchard northwest of Wenatchee, Wash., on Nov. 2.

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WENATCHEE, Wash. — A Foreman Fruit Co. orchard sustained an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 in damage from a 1,100-acre wildfire northwest of town on Nov. 1. It was the latest fire in the season of any size in the area in recent memory.

Some apple trees in the 100-acre Panorama Orchard were seared, probably damaging buds of next fall’s crop, but the more significant damage is labor and materials needed to remove numerous partially burned, 100-foot-tall poplar trees that were wind breaks on the orchard’s edges, said James Foreman, company manager.

“We’ll have to take them down this winter because they’re a safety hazard. We don’t want them falling into the orchard when workers are working,” said Foreman, son of company owner Dale Foreman, a Wenatchee attorney. Dale Foreman is a former state House majority leader, state Republican Party chairman, candidate for governor and Washington Apple Commission board chairman.

Firefighters watered hot spots along the poplars on Nov. 2. Eduardo Sanchez and another orchard worker were loading empty apple bins on a truck, the harvest of Autumn Glory apples having finished the day before the fire. Sanchez estimated half a mile of 8-foot-tall deer fencing is damaged or destroyed.

Fence replacement is about $16,000 to $26,000 per mile, depending on terrain, James Foreman said. Some irrigation pipe might also be damaged.

Foreman said damaged poplar trees will have to be tipped away from the orchard when cut and removed before the fence is replaced, as they are inside the fenceline. He will have to decide whether to maintain a wind break with new trees, he said.

“Standard orchard (insurance) policy doesn’t cover deer fencing, so unfortunately I don’t expect any claim to help us out,” he said, estimating total damage at $50,000 to $100,000.

Foreman and 10 workers helped fight the fire on the orchard edge.

The fire was first reported at 10:30 a.m., Nov. 1. It started on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 2/97 just west of the town of Monitor, about five miles northwest of Wenatchee.

The cause was later determined to be sparks from a passing vehicle, possibly from a broken tail pipe or trailer chains dragging, said Phil Mosher, chief of Chelan County Fire District 6 in Cashmere.

“The big issue was the grass and sagebrush component of fuel and wind and percent of slope. The wind just took it and ran it up the slope. It was blowing 20 mph on top the ridge,” Mosher said.

Ten firefighters, three brush trucks, an engine and one tender from districts 6, 1 and the city of Cashmere were on the initial attack.

“The big challenge was resources because summer resources had been released and a house fire in East Wenatchee was tying up firefighters,” said Rich Magnussen, Chelan County Emergency Management spokesman.

Mosher called second and third alarms, which eventually brought a peak of 135 firefighters from Chelan, Douglas and Grant counties and from the state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The fire burned up hillsides north of Monitor and west of Warm Springs Canyon on private and DNR and USBR grassland. There are apparently no grazing leases and there were no cattle in the area, Magnussen said.

One volunteer firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and dehydration, 226 residences were on prepare-to-evacuate notice for most of a day and overnight, but there were no other injuries and no structure losses, he said.

A Chelan County Fire District No. 1 helicopter and water bucket were employed and two bulldozers were used to build firelines. The fire was 100 percent contained by Nov. 3.





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