The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

July 17, 2014

Winds fan wildfire, threaten homes

SPOKANE, Wash. — Driven by scorching hot temperatures and strong winds, a new central Washington wildfire threatened hundreds of homes Wednesday and sent up a towering column of smoke.

The Chiwaukum Creek fire about 10 miles north of Leavenworth raced across nearly 2 square miles by evening and prompted the closure of a 15-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2.

As many as 400 people have been told to leave their homes or cabins and another 800 homes were threatened, said Eileen Ervin, a Chelan County emergency management spokeswoman.

Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor’s offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare a state of emergency, a move that enables state officials to call up the National Guard.

In Washington, that declaration covers 30 eastern Washington counties.

Wildfires were also burning in Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and California.

The Chiwaukum Creek fire, first detected Tuesday, was believed caused by lightning. It sent a smoke plume 25,000 feet into the air as it burned through heavy timber.

While the fire’s smoke and rapid growth made assessment difficult, a fire spokesman, Mike Mueller, said there was no confirmed loss of any homes by Wednesday evening.

Leavenworth, where the Red Cross set up a shelter, reached 104 degrees Wednesday and winds gusted to 18 mph.

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.

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