ENTIAT, Wash. — The Mills Canyon Fire has been held in check since major expansion July 10 and 11, but weather will play a big role in whether there’s big growth again.
“The anticipated thunderstorm last night didn’t affect the fire much which was a good thing. We’re feeling pretty good about that but there’s still potential for it to take off again,” Daniel O’Connor, an interagency fire spokesman in Entiat, said the morning of July 14.
Lightning from thunderstorms over night caused 100-plus fire starts in Oregon, mostly around Mt. Hood, and a strike west of Cle Elum, Wash., and in the Methow River area to the north, O’Connor said.
The Mills Canyon Fire, south and west of the town of Entiat, was 25 percent contained and the fire front was in rugged, timbered, mountain terrain to the northwest and west, he said.
A national team took command July 13, he said, as the fire stood at 22,571 acres and 1,041 personnel.
The fire began about 12:30 p.m. July 8 at a house in Mills Canyon some four miles southwest of Entiat on the Columbia River, 20 miles north of Wenatchee.
The fire grew to the south and west, causing the evacuation of 109 homes along Highway 97A between Wenatchee and Entiat on July 9 and closing the highway from 3 p.m. July 9 to evening of July 10. The highway was closed again for a few hours the afternoon of July 11 for backburning, O’Connor said.
Wind expanded the fire the night of July 10 and during the day July 11 to the south and west. Air tanker, helicopter and hot shot crew attacks held the fire at Swakane Creek about 10 miles north of Wenatchee. Homes in the Sunnyslope area on the north edge of Wenatchee were placed on fire advisory, the lowest level of warning for potential evacuation, he said.
“The Swakane was a key catch of the fire. If it had crossed the drainage, it would have been real bad,” O’Connor said.
The Entiat River held the fire to the north. People were allowed back into their homes along the Columbia River between Wenatchee and Entiat but 37 homes west of Entiat, up the Entiat River Road, remained under evacuation notice on July 14. Another 51 homes, farther up Entiat River Road were under standby for evacuation.
No homes have been lost other than damage or loss of the house of origin, O’Connor said.