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Washington fires threaten homes, keep firefighters on go

Wildfires stretched firefighting resources near Wenatchee, Wash., and 50 miles to the east near Soap Lake during the weekend. Homes were threatened, evacuated and saved north of Soap Lake and in less direct danger in Wenatchee.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on July 16, 2018 10:36AM

A passing motorist took this photo of the Rocky Reach Fire shortly after it began the evening of July 13 about five miles north of Wenatchee, Wash. Largely controlled by Monday morning, it burned 3,400 acres of grass with some timber.

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A passing motorist took this photo of the Rocky Reach Fire shortly after it began the evening of July 13 about five miles north of Wenatchee, Wash. Largely controlled by Monday morning, it burned 3,400 acres of grass with some timber.

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Hot spots on the hillside just west of Rocky Reach Dam and north of Wenatchee, Wash., smolder at 11:34 a.m. July 14.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

Hot spots on the hillside just west of Rocky Reach Dam and north of Wenatchee, Wash., smolder at 11:34 a.m. July 14.

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A helicopter scoops water from the Columbia River just north of Rocky Reach Dam at 11:48 a.m. July 14 to fight the Rocky Reach Fire.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

A helicopter scoops water from the Columbia River just north of Rocky Reach Dam at 11:48 a.m. July 14 to fight the Rocky Reach Fire.

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A scorched scenic overlook looking down on he Rock Reach Dam maintenance shops and park at about noon on July 14. Wenatchee is in the distance to south. The fire burned 3,400 acres.

Dan Wheat/Capital Press

A scorched scenic overlook looking down on he Rock Reach Dam maintenance shops and park at about noon on July 14. Wenatchee is in the distance to south. The fire burned 3,400 acres.

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WENATCHEE, Wash. — Wildfires north of Wenatchee and Soap Lake 50 miles away kept firefighters busy during the weekend and threatened homes.

The Rocky Reach Fire, five miles north of Wenatchee, burned approximately 3,427 acres of grassland and some timber before being mostly controlled.

The blaze started about 8:15 p.m. July 13 on the west shoulder of U.S. Highway 97A near Rocky Reach Dam. The cause is under investigation. A firefighter placed small marker flags along the highway ditch Saturday and said it was the possible point of origin.

The highway was closed from Friday night until noon Saturday.

Four residences in Swakane Canyon and 244 more homes in the Sunnyslope area of the northern part of Wenatchee remained on the lowest level of possible evacuation warning Monday morning. None were evacuated and no homes were under real threat, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office said.

More than a dozen aircraft worked the fire Saturday, dropping retardant and water on a Burch Mountain ridge line keeping the fire from heading down the mountainside into Sunnyslope. Helicopters and planes scooped water from the nearby Columbia River. Backfires were also set.

A drone was used Sunday to help determine establishment of firelines in the northwest sector. That area remained the most active Monday morning with steep terrain proving a challenge.

“We are throwing a lot of resources on that early today before hot temperatures and humidity make it too dangerous to be in there,” said Max Jones, fire spokeswoman.

Barring wind, efforts are looking good, she said.

Other than the northwest sector, the rest of the fire was in mop-up mode with 241 personnel, 21 fire engines, two water tenders and three bulldozers.

The city was smoky Saturday but was clear Sunday.

The Rocky Reach Fire is about 10 miles northeast of the 317-acre Little Camas Fire that is 87 percent contained and in mop-up mode.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that started near the Lake Lenore boat launch north of Soap Lake about 5:30 p.m. Saturday quickly spread, closing State Highway 17 and causing evacuation of numerous homes. A pumphouse was destroyed but firefighters saved nearby homes.

The Mile Marker 81 Fire grew to 1,000 acres before it was controlled. Powerlines burned, knocking out power to about 21 customers.

There have been four wildfires in Grant County in the last six weeks. Most of them have possible causes other than fireworks or arson, said Anthony Leibelt, deputy chief of Grant County Fire District 3.







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