Winds whip Central Washington wildfire


by KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 3 at 8:11 AM

WENATCHEE, Wash. - High winds have forced a wildfire near Wenatchee to double in size to 11,990 acres, and firefighters worry where it might go next.

More than 400 firefighters are working the Swakane Canyon fire, moore than double the number just a day earlier. The fire is 30 percent contained.

The Washington Interagency Incident Management Team said the fire is burning in dry grass, brush and scattered timber.

The agency said 18 people were evacuated late Saturday from three homes in the canyon, and that 14 spent the night in a Red Cross shelter.

The only structure that has burned is an old barn. The only injuries have been a few bee stings on the fire line and in camp.

Seventy homes along Highway 97A are under Level I evacuation advisement, and three homes under Level II evacuation notice.

Bobbie Calico shares her home with her husband and a lot of animals, including 50 rabbits she breeds for show.

"We came home from a rabbit show Sunday... to this," she said. She knows gtting out in a hurry wouldn't be easy. But so far no homes have burned, and for that Bobbie is grateful.

"This is the third time we've been threatened by fire,' she said.

Three local road closures are in effect. Swakane Canyon is closed at Hwy 97A. Burch Mountain Road is closed at the end of the blacktop. Nahahum Canyon is closed 6.7 miles north of Hwy 2.

Highway 97A was temporarily closed Sunday night when the fire crossed the road. Officials say temporary closures may occur as fire activity and safety concerns require. There is congestion and fire traffic, fire crews and distractions from air operations along this route. In order to protect firefighters and the public, drivers are asked to avoid stopping in this area and consider using Hwy 97 on the east side of the Columbia River if possible.

Firefighters are trying to keep the fire from topping Birch Mountain to the south. A large number of homes are on the lower slopes of the mountain's south side, about 4 miles northeast of Cashmere.

Strong winds near Moses Lake caused road closures because of blowing dust. Visibility has also been reduced along some stretches of I-90.

People are encouraged to take Hwy 97 on the eastern side of the Columbian River.

The fire season is off to a late start. The wet spring means more growth and more to burn. High in the hills a lot of the growth is still green but closer to the road and homes there's a lot more fuel to burn. The concern now is that the winds could blow the fire closer to Wenatchee and Cashmere.

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