Wildfire near Leavenworth closes stretch of Highway 2
Officials declared a state of emergency in 20 Eastern Washington counties as hot temperatures and high winds combined to fuel several fires around the state.
Times staff and news services
A fire covering more than 1,000 acres near Leavenworth, Chelan County, has led to a 35-mile closure of Highway 2 and created a large plume of smoke visible from downtown Seattle on Wednesday.
A fire ignited by lightning Tuesday near Chiwaukum Creek, nine miles northwest of Leavenworth, has threatened evacuations in Chelan County. Highway 2 is closed in both directions from Stevens Pass to west of Leavenworth because of fire activity. No detour was yet available.
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Level 3 evacuation notice, highly recommending that people leave the areas of Chiwaukum Creek, Coulter Creek and Scottish Lakes High Camp and both sides of Highway 2, according to Laurie Dowie, spokeswoman for the Mills Canyon fire complex.
A subdivision east of the creek, Ponderosa Estates, also has been given notice to evacuate.
A Level 2 evacuation, suggesting that people prepare to evacuate, has been issued for homes in the area of Plain River Road and Chumstick Highway, which has been closed from Leavenworth to Lake Wenatchee.
The Red Cross will have a shelter in Leavenworth after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church at 429 Evans St., according to Chelan County Emergency Management.
A second, more northern smoke plume is a combination of three fires, dubbed the Carlton complex, five miles northeast of the Methow Valley, National Weather Service meteorologist Allen Kam said.
Air masses become more unstable as the weather heats up later in the day, Kam said.
Wildfires were also burning in Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and California.
Worsening wildfire activity prompted the governor’s offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare a state of emergency, a move that enabled state officials to call up the National Guard. In Washington, that declaration covers 20 Eastern Washington counties.
Fire officials said a handful of new wildfires, some started by lightning, were growing in Central Washington.
“The National Weather Service posted red flag warnings and fire weather watches ... for much of Eastern Washington from Wednesday afternoon through Friday,” said the state’s emergency declaration, signed by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.
The state’s largest wildfire, the Mills Canyon blaze near Entiat, Chelan County, was 40 percent contained and holding steady at about 35 square miles.
State fire assistance was ordered for the Carlton complex of fires burning in north-central Washington’s Methow Valley, where residents of about a dozen homes have been told to leave. Spokesman Jacob McCann said Wednesday evening that complex had burned across 7 square miles with zero containment.
The Washington National Guard sent two helicopters and 14 people to help battle the blaze.
“Our guardsmen are highly trained for these types of emergencies,” said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the state’s adjutant general. “We stand ready to provide additional assistance if needed.”
In Southern Oregon, a Klamath County wildfire turned out to be more destructive than authorities initially believed.
After the fire burned in the rural Moccasin Hill subdivision near Sprague River earlier this week, officials reported that six houses were destroyed, along with 14 outbuildings. But fire managers toured the burn area Tuesday, and spokeswoman Ashley Lertora said they found 17 residences and 16 outbuildings destroyed.
Oregon fire officials said Wednesday that the Bailey Butte fire — part of the Waterman complex — had burned more than 3 square miles west of Mitchell and was moving south into the Ochoco National Forest. Two other fires near Service Creek and Kimberly brought the Waterman complex to more than 6 square miles, or 4,000 acres. The fires are in timber, grass and brush.
In Utah, a wildfire encroaching on homes in the Tooele County town of Stockton had burned about 400 to 500 acres. Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry said the fire burned part of a water tower, but it’s believed no homes have been destroyed.
In Central Idaho, the lightning-caused Preacher Fire has scorched nearly 50 square miles in two days. But fire managers estimated the blaze would be contained by late Thursday.
In Nevada, fire crews had the upper hand on a lightning-sparked wildfire near Reno. But the forecast called for thunderstorms that could bring new fire threats.
About 120 firefighters remained on the lines Wednesday evening at the blaze that has burned just over a square mile near Highway 395 northwest of Reno. No injuries had been reported, and no structures were threatened.
In rural Northern California, cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped firefighters battling the Bully Fire, which has burned through more than 13 square miles.
Seattle Times staff reporter Colleen Wright and The Associated Press contributed to this report.