Fire 50 percent contained at Washington state tourism spot

Fire 50 percent contained at Washington state tourism spot

24 May 2017

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USA –  LEAVENWORTH, Wash. (AP) — A wildfire that started at an old log-storage site and prompted evacuation orders for 168 homes and cabins at a popular Washington state hiking and skiing destination was 50 percent contained Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

The fire was burning on about 40 acres (161,900 square meters) Wednesday but hadn’t spread by afternoon. It started Tuesday about 3 miles north (4.8 kilometers) of the tourist town of Leavenworth in an old timber storage area containing enormous cedar logs. Leavenworth is a gateway to Wenatchee National Forest where many people have getaway homes.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Melissa Gannie said the fire was threatening homes, timber and electrical infrastructure away from the downtown area, modeled in Bavarian village style.

Swirling wind conditions on Wednesday kept the firefighters working hard to contain sparks that could set other trees outside the fire zone ablaze, officials said.

“I’m not seeing any dramatic fire change or growth, but the wind is strong,” Northwest Incident Management Team spokesman Brendan Cowan said. “It’s still a challenging fire environment. It’s far from being a fully contained fire.”

Ross Frank, owner of Red-Tail Canyon Farm, said the fire was burning about a quarter mile (.40 kilometers) from his farm with draft horses and forest where weddings, barbeques and sleigh rides are held.

“It’s our whole livelihood,” Frank said. “Everything we do is right here on the ranch.”

He was told to evacuate but stayed home because he is also a firefighter and spent 19 hours helping at the blaze site.

He said he plans to stay and prepare his animals to leave if the winds shift the fire’s path toward his property or if sparks start fires closer to his ranch.

“The wind has been gusting and swirling so much it’s hard to tell where it’s coming from, especially in canyon-country,” he said. “I’m optimistic, but the wind will be the deciding factor.”

Cowan said Wednesday that hundreds of firefighters and other responders were able to make progress on the initial fire and two related spot fires, allowing for the reduction of the number of people in homes and cabins needing to evacuate immediately.

Officials with Chelan County Fire District 3 said Wednesday afternoon that only those living in the Spromberg Canyon Road area remained under orders to evacuate.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many homes and cabins are now directly threatened.

Less wind is in the Thursday forecast, which could make the fire easier to contain, Cowan said.

No injuries have been reported and no structures have been damaged.

The Red Cross opened a shelter in Leavenworth where two people stayed Tuesday night, said Red Cross spokeswoman Christina Jones.

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