WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) — Three homes were destroyed and more homes were evacuated Tuesday as crews battled 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 it was burning near other fires west of Wenatchee, but not expected to merge.
Wildfires also have closed numerous trails in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, she said.
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. Residents of more than 150 homes already were 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 was blamed for starting more than 100 fires in the region, though 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.
Farther east, near the town of Grand Coulee, two lightning-sparked fires raced across thousands of acres of dry grass and sagebrush.
Fire spokeswoman Karen Ripley said 35 mph winds overnight Monday pushed the Leahy Fire burning north and west of Grand Coulee from about 11,000 acres to more than 60,000 acres, or 95 square miles. That fire has burned three houses and nine outbuildings, she said.
The nearby Barker Canyon fire has burned more than 17,000 acres, or 27 square miles. One firefighter was injured.
The town of Grand Coulee is not threatened and there were no mandatory evacuations, Ripley said.
Firefighting resources are stretched thin 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.
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.”
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