Wildfires burn north Central Washington

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Seven wildfires are keeping firefighters busy in north Central Washington and causing the evacuation of 860 homes in the vicinity of Leavenworth and Plain.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Hundreds of homes have been evacuated and skies are filled with smoke from several wildfires in north Central Washington.

The Mills Canyon Fire, southwest of Entiat, is relatively stable at 22,571 acres, but new fires have spread rapidly near Leavenworth and far to the north in the Methow Valley.

The Chiwaukum Creek Fire, possibly caused by lightning, was spotted the morning of July 16 about 10 miles northwest of Leavenworth. Driven by wind in hot, dry fuels, it quickly grew to 6,630 acres by the end of the day, causing the evacuation of 860 homes along Highway 2 north of Leavenworth and in the Ponderosa Estates subdivision south of the town of Plain, said Bob McGregor, a spokesman for the Mills Canyon Fire Complex in Entiat.

The fire jumped U.S. Highway 2 at Tumwater Campground and the highway, a Cascade corridor over Stevens Pass, was closed between Coles Corner and Leavenworth at 4 p.m., McGregor said. About 312 firefighters and support personnel were shifted from the Mills Canyon Fire to the Chiwaukum Creek Fire which was of big concern the morning of July 17 with winds of 25 mph forecast, he said. A shelter for the homeless was opened at the Baptist Church, 429 Evans St., Leavenworth.

Ash from the fire fell from smoky skies some 30 miles to the east in Wenatchee.

Wind that drove the Chiwaukum Creek Fire helped contain the western flank of the Mills Canyon Fire, blowing it back on itself, McGregor said. The fire is 40 percent contained and hand work is being done in steep terrain to strengthen western fire lines, he said. Some 493 personnel remain on the blaze, down from a peak of 1,041. Many were shifted to Chiwaukum Creek and others were sent home, he said.

“It’s tough work because of the heat. It was 110 in camp yesterday (in Entiat),” McGregor said.

The Entiat River Road remained closed at Fox Creek Campground about 20 miles up from Entiat due to the 65-acre Kelly Mountain Fire five miles north of the campground, he said. Sixteen smoke jumpers were fighting that fire, likely caused by lightning.

Far to the north in the Methow Valley, hundreds of firefighters fought four fires, all caused by lightning and known as the Carlton Complex, said Jacob McCann, a fire spokesman. The fires are estimated at 18,000 acres and have caused intermittent closures of Highway 153, he said. The Stokes Road and Golden Hike fires were burning together and the French Creek fire probably will join them, he said. They are all in the vicinity of Carlton. The Cougar Flat Fire is between Winthrop and Twisp. About a dozen homes had been evacuated, he said.


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