Entiat's Numerical Mountain barely escapes Mills Canyon Fire

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by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5

KING5.com

Posted on July 13, 2014 at 11:16 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 13 at 11:16 PM

ENTIAT -- Driving south on Highway 97A from Chelan, it looks like a colorful tattoo on a riverside rock face.  Upon closer look, they are a series of seemingly random numbers, better known to those in Entiat as Numerical Mountain.

Since the early 1920's, nearly every graduating class from Entiat High School has painted their corresponding year on the mountain facing the city. 

Mayor Keith Vradenburg, class of 1960, said a wildfire had never come close to the area, until Wednesday.

"First thing people do is take pictures of this mountain," said Vradenburg, "Then they talk about how much trouble (painting it) was.

"This is the first time fire's burned into Numerical Mountain," he continued.

The Mills Canyon Fire started Tuesday night, and quickly raced east and west through the Entiat River valley.  By Sunday night, more than 18,000 acres had burned, but no homes had been lost.

For a town surrounded by numbers, perhaps the most interesting one is the population.  Entiat has around 1,400 people.  With around 800 firefighters, the number of people in the city has doubled.

At a briefing Sunday night, fire crews were told of impending dry lightning and storms. 

"Heads up," expained Incident Meteorologist Bob Tobin, "We've got a red flag warning out.  Dry thunderstorms.

"Give it a couple more hours," he said, "We should have a pretty good light show."

Firefighters were told to watch weather conditions carefully, while officials watched for the potential of lightning caused ignitions.

Vradenburg, himself a former fire commissioner, said the number of firefighters is causing congestion in Entiat, but said any inconvienence is worthwhile.

"It's good to see them down there," he said from his hillside home, "It'll be good to see them move on too.  We'll know the fire is done."

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