CHELAN, Wash. — As the Twenty-Five Mile Fire continues to burn in Chelan County, visitors to Lake Chelan say watching wild land firefighters has become an unfortunate tourist attraction in eastern Washington.
"I was enjoying myself until they told us to leave. I was watching the helicopters dipping in the lake," said Jim Beem. Jim and his wife Joy were on their annual summertime campout at Lake Chelan when they realized it would be no ordinary trip.
"They said there was a fire up on the hill behind our campsite, so we looked, and there was a fire," said Joy.
"When the forest people came through handing out the evacuation notices, that's when it got real," added Jim.
The couple, from Puyallup, snapped a series of photos as they were told to evacuate. The situation left one immediate question burning in their minds.
"How much time do we really have to get everything together and get out of here?" asked Jim. "They made sure everybody had plenty of time. Nobody had to rush. It was pretty calm. Between the fire department and the parks people, they did a great job."
The Twenty-Five Mile Fire exploded from just 300 acres Sunday night to more than 4,000 as of Monday morning. The fire is burning two miles southwest of Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park. At last report, the fire was 0% contained with 150 firefighters working tirelessly to put it out.
The cause of the fire remains undetermined.
"We're just mostly praying for everyone's safety and the first responders," said Joy. "There are some people with houses there up on the hill. We're just wishing the best for them, as well."
There are 135 homes in the hills being threatened by the wildfire, prompting fire crews to issue evacuation orders. One home has already been lost as of Monday.
So far this year, there have been 1,500 wildfires in Washington state, scorching 294,000 acres.
The Twenty-Five Mile Fire is burning about 30 miles north of downtown Chelan and moving south, according to fire officials. Weather conditions were favorable for firefighting on Monday with temperatures in the 70s and a 20% chance of showers, but gusty winds could be a problem.
For Jim and Joy, it's a tourist attraction they hope to never see again.
"We just feel lucky," said Joy.