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Originally published Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 6:42 PM

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Fire crews make progress but worry about lightning storms

Firefighters made significant progress Sunday toward containing the Mills Canyon fire in Central Washington, which has burned across 34 miles of grass, brush and timber since it began last week.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Firefighters made significant progress toward containing the Mills Canyon fire in Central Washington on Sunday, which has burned across 34 miles of grass, brush and timber since it began last week.

But as night fell, they were anxiously eyeing weather reports of dry-lightning storms on the way.

“Those storms could change everything,” said Laurie Dowie, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

Marked by high winds, lightning and little rain, such storms threatened to create new, much larger fires by striking the bone-dry brush outside the area already contained.

More than 780 firefighters from across the region had gathered to fight the blaze Sunday, using hotshot crews, helicopters, air tankers and bulldozers. By late Sunday they had it 25 percent contained, according to Dowie.

“It’s been a very productive day,” she said. “They’re working from either end of the fire, clearing brush in a line from the north down and the south up.”

Meanwhile, the 400-acre 25-Mile Creek Fire near Lake Chelan had been 90 percent controlled, the Palisades Flats fire east of Wenatchee was entirely contained, and the Lake Spokane fire 23 miles northwest of Spokane, about 80 percent under control.

In the Entiat, Chelan County, area, residents of 37 homes were under a Level 3 evacuation warning — the most serious — meaning they must leave.

Inhabitants of an additional 51 homes had been told to be ready to evacuate, and those living in 433 other properties were notified of fire in their area.

No one has been injured, but two outbuildings were damaged in the Mills Canyon blaze.

As that fire has grown more complex, crews have bulked up, adding about 20 people over the weekend. Most are camping at Entiat High School, and the rest at a city park.

“They’re coming from all over the West, and that will probably continue,” said Forest Service spokesman Daniel O’Connor. “The forecast is not good.”

Claudia Rowe: 206-464-2531 or crowe@seattletimes.com



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