Wildfires burning across E. Wash.; 3 homes burn



Updated: September 11, 2012, 9:47 PM


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A fire that’s burned more than 1,600 acres near White Salmon and cost an estimated $2.7 million to fight was expected to be 100 percent contained by the end of Tuesday, according to a press release from the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The blaze charred 1,644 acres east of state Highway 141, between White Salmon and Husum. About 600 responders worked the fire Monday, including 13 water tenders, a helicopter and numerous wildland engines.

The estimated cost of fighting the fire as of Monday night was $2.7 million, spokesman Chuck Turley said. That cost will increase, he said in an e-mail.

The fire began Sept. 5.

WENATCHEE — One of the dozens of wildfires burning in Eastern Washington has grown dramatically in windy conditions and has burned three homes.

Fire spokeswoman Karen Ripley says 35 mph winds overnight Monday pushed the Leahy Fire burning north and west of Grand Coulee, Wash., from about 11,000 acres to more than 60,000 acres, or 95 square miles. Ripley said Tuesday night that fire has burned three homes and nine outbuildings. One firefighter was injured.

The Leahy and Barker Canyon fires are burning dry grass and sagebrush near Grand Coulee, about 160 miles east of Seattle. The town is not threatened and there are no mandatory evacuations. The lightning-sparked fires are 20 percent contained.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

More homes were evacuated Tuesday as firefighters continued to battle dozens of wildfires across Eastern Washington.

Fifty-four homes were evacuated along Mission Creek Road near Cashmere, in front of a wildfire that has burned about 300 acres.

Fire spokeswoman Connie Mehmel said the fire was burning near other fires west of Wenatchee, but they were not expected to merge. Wildfires also have closed numerous trails in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, she said.

Fire officials said what they’re calling the Wenatchee Complex includes more than 50 lightning-caused fires burning in Chelan and Okanogan counties.

Another blaze north of Entiat forced the evacuation of 19 homes. And more than 150 homes have been evacuated from the area of the Wenatchee fire, which covers 1,000 acres. The homes sit in a dead-end road in a steep, winding canyon.

A Sept. 8 lightning storm is being blamed for starting more than 100 fires in the region; many were small. More than 300 homes were under varying levels of evacuation, ranging from be ready to evacuate to “leave now,” because of fires near Wenatchee.

Firefighting resources are stretched in the area because of the number of fires and because college students who work as firefighters during the summer have gone back to school, the Wenatchee World reported.

A woman fell and injured her leg while trying to extinguish small spot fires near her home Monday, Douglas County Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal told the newspaper. He said the woman had left her house but returned when the fire threat decreased.

Douglas County Emergency Management told KREM-TV a wildfire destroyed a ranch home near Grand Coulee. Fire spokeswoman Karen Ripley said Tuesday afternoon that no home losses had yet been confirmed.

Meanwhile, a fire southwest of Creston grew to 20,000 acres, and one firefighter there suffered a minor injury. No homes were lost, but several outbuildings were believed to have burned.

No communities were threatened by blazes in Yakima or Kittitas counties, but firefighters continued to try to contain 28 fires that were sparked by lightning there.

Ed Delgado, predictive services meteorologist for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said rising temperatures are more of a problem for firefighters than the wind that has swirled across Eastern Washington for the past two days.

High temperatures, lower humidity and greater instability increase the potential for fires to grow.

“Our biggest concern right now is existing fires,” Delgado said. “We’re not expecting lightning over the next few days, although that doesn’t alleviate the potential for human-caused fires, especially as we get into camping and hunting seasons.”