LEAVENWORTH, Wash. -- On the edge of the Ponderosa Pines Community just outside of Leavenworth, fire trucks stood ready Thursday afternoon.
They’re wetting roads, mapping routes, determining which structures to protect and how, while plotting their attack if wildfire moves into the neighborhood of about 500 homes.
It’s the largest neighborhood threatened by the Chiwaukum Creek fire, just three miles away on the most urgent Level 3 evacuation notice.
“The firefighters followed me to my house, gave me a long speech about how this isn’t smart, and how this is a wind driven fire and how there will be no more warnings,” Tim Abel said.
Abel is one of just a few residents who did not evacuate. Most of the 500 homes sit empty. He doesn’t think the plume looks dangerous or close enough yet.
“I plan to be packed up and ready to leave at a moment’s notice,” Abel said.
High winds moved into the area Thursday afternoon, with top speeds of about 30mph.
Black ash continues to fall from the orange smoke-filled sky above Gary Simmons’ home.
“That’s probably bark off a tree,” Simmons said. “If you start seeing embers that are hot, it’s time to pack up and go home in another direction.”
A former firefighter, Simmons has already cleared any potential fuels from his yard, like outdoor furniture, which he’s placed in a metal garage.
His house is currently on a Level 1 evacuation notice.
“As the fire gets closer, any fire, it can trigger a fire right now,” Simmons said. “And when you’ve gone through a few of them, you learn to respect it.”
The Chiwaukum Creek fire grew nearly 5,000 acres overnight Wednesday. By the morning Thursday, it had spread over 6,600 acres from about 1,300 just 12 hours before.
Deep inside Ponderosa Pines, two reservoirs filled with water are filling. Last night, residents used about 100,000 gallons of water to wet their homes and lawns before evacuating.
Firefighters will use that water if the Chiwaukum Creek fire crosses Highway 2 and moves into the neighborhood. A red light above their emergency pump will signal if the fire shuts off power.
Highway U.S. 2 will remain closed overnight Thursday and likely through Friday, but the road closure has moved from Stevens Pass to Coles Corner on the west side, allowing drivers access to Lake Wenatchee.