WENATCHEE, Wash. — A rapidly spreading wildfire burned approximately 1,300 acres of brush, threatened homes and jeopardized the production of aluminum at Alcoa’s Wenatchee Works plant late the afternoon of May 28.
By the next afternoon, the fire was 90 percent contained mainly by helicopter water bucket drops on hillsides south of the Alcoa plant. A bulldozer established a fire line on a ridge above the fire and 25 firefighters fought the fire May 29.
Alcoa released a statement saying a power outage, caused by the fire, disrupted potline operations. “Power has been restored and the plant continues to work on stabilizing the potlines. Impact on production is not yet known,” the statement said.
It can be very costly to restore potlines to operation if their molten aluminum seizes from lack of heat.
The fire burned some of the same area burned in last summer’s 80,000-acre Colockum Tarps Fire that destroyed four homes, ran up $11 million in firefighting costs and was caused by faulty wiring to an orchard irrigation pump.
The new fire was reported at 4:20 p.m. May 28 and burned a large area along a four-mile section of the Malaga-Alcoa Highway southeast of Wenatchee, said Cindy Blaufuss, administrative coordinator of Chelan County Fire District No. 1 in Wenatchee. It was driven rapidly by wind, she said. It appears to have been caused by lightning striking a power pole, splintering the top of the pole from which burning pieces fell, igniting vegetation on the ground, she said.
Forty homes were under evacuation readiness for several hours but there was no residential damage or loss, Blaufuss said.
The fire cut off electrical power to about 200 homes from 5:30 p.m. to 8:10 a.m., said Kimberlee Craig, spokeswoman for Chelan County Public Utility District. Power to Alcoa was lost at the same time but was restored in the wee hours of the morning, she said.
Up to 20 power poles may need repair or replacement and there was significant damage to power lines, Craig said.