Firefighters try to stay ahead of Chelan Co. wildfires

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 11, 2012 at 6:40 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 12 at 7:20 AM

On the edges of Wenatchee, hundreds of families are under some form of evacuation order. All they can do is wait and see what the weather does as hundreds of firefighters work to get ahead of the flames.

Of most concern for fire bosses is that the flames are very close to densely packed subdivisions.

A rapid evacuation could be hampered by clogged roads, which is why some of the new evacuations were ordered, to give people time to get out and clear the roads for fire equipment.

Firefighters say three wildfires have merged into one, creating the Canyons Fire, that is burning dangerously close to homes, but it's still only part of what firefighters are calling the Wenatchee Complex. The Wenatchee Complex includes more than 50 lightning-caused fires burning in Chelan and Okanogan counties.

The Byrd Canyon Fire near Entiat is estimated at between 7,500 and 9,000 acres of steep slopes above the Columbia River.

The 20-acre First Creek Fire, located about 9 miles northwest of Chelan, is very visible from the town of Chelan. A public meeting to share information about the Byrd and First Creek fires is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Chelan Fire Station No. 7 in Chelan.

The Canyons Fire has combined with the Twin Peaks fire; the acreage is estimated to be in excess of 1,000 acres.

"There is potential for the fire to move into Number Two Canyon," said Incident Commander Cecil McKinney.

As a precaution, Level 3 Evacuation notices were ordered for the 33 homes west of the Gun Club on Number Two Canyon and Stiss Canyon Road. 

Level Two Evacuation Notices were being issued for homes on Number Two Canyon Road from Castle Heights to the Gun Club.  These notices are also being issued within the Castle Heights subdivision to homes on Castle Heights Drive, Linville Drive, Kings Court, Canyonside and Queens Court.

Other Level 2 evacuations were ordered for Sleepy Hollow Heights, which includes Sleepy Hollow Road from the railroad tracks to Richared Road, Sky View Court, East View Lane, Scenic View Drive and Edgewood Lane. 

The fire is also burning to the south and a portion of the fire is slowly backing down into Number Two Canyon approximately one mile to the west of the Gun Club, where a roadblock has been set up.  The 33 homes in this portion of Number Two Canyon and Stiss Canyon Road were given Level Three Evacuation notices earlier Tuesday. Incident commanders said the fire backing down to Number Two Canyon has the potential to leave these people cut off so they were being urged to evacuate.

Tuesday, flames came within a quarter mile of the Broadview subdivision, where some of the 450 homes under an evacuation order in Okanogan and Chelan counties are located.

Firefighters said part of their plan includes allowing the fire to burn through the dry grass and brush, but they're standing guard in neighborhoods ready to spray down any flames that creep close to homes.

Firefighters advised homeowners to leave their sprinklers on and close all the windows in their homes before evacuating.

A total of 98 homes are under a Level 3 evacuation order, considered the most urgent; 280 homes are under a Level 2, and 76 homes are under a Level 1 order.

Related: List of evacuation orders

Level 1, 2, and 3 Evacuation Status is akin to a "Ready, Set, Go" level of evacuation notices with Level 1 asking residents to be ready to evacuate if conditions change, Level 2 means residents should be set to go at a moment's notice, Level 3 means authorities are advising residents to evacuate because their homes are in imminent danger (under Level 3, residents will not be allowed to return to their homes until fire danger decreases).

Calmer, cooler weather on Tuesday was a help to firefighters, but there is still risk to homes, and the fire won't be out until Mother Nature takes over.

"With fires this large it really has to have snow, wetting rains, which would be fall rains, but snow puts out this type of fire," said Mick Meuller, Incident Management Team.

Related: Photos from Canyons Fire near Wenatchee

Related: Photos from Byrd Canyon Wildfire near Entiat

SR 97-A is intermittently closed between Chelan and the junction with Navarre Coulee Road. Along with the fire danger, there is danger from rock slides triggered by the flames.

The local Red Cross chapter has set up shelter for evacuees at the Wenatchee Seventh-Day Adventist Church, located at 508 North Western Avenue and available at 509-663-3907.

A public information phone line has also been set up: 509-667-6636.

Pets can be evacuated to the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society.

Other fires

Fifty homes have been evacuated because of the Mission fire, south of Cashmere.

The Barker Canyon complex northwest of Grand Coulee is estimated at more than 29,000 acres.

A Level 2 evacuation order is in place for the entire fire area east of Leahy Junction (Hwy 17), north to the Columbia River and south to Sims Corner. State Highway 174 is closed from Leahy Junction (Hwy 17) to Coulee Dam.

Fire managers say the wind is much calmer today and should provide opportunity to improve and connect containment lines and the areas around threatened homes.

The Apache Pass fire, 17 miles southwest of Creston, is estimated at 18,000 acres. About a dozen residents were given a level 2 evacuation notice.  While no homes have been lost, a few outbuildings have been damaged.

The Yakima Complex includes 95 fires in Kittitas and Yakima counties. Sixteen of the fires are contained, 28 are staffed and 51 unstaffed.

Related links:

InciWeb - Wenatchee Complex Fire

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