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Firefighters see progress tackling Washington fires

Mon., Sept. 24, 2012

WENATCHEE – Firefighters are making progress keeping several major wildfires in Washington state at bay as a lull in weather has helped temper new fire growth, authorities said Sunday.

There were concerns Saturday that lightning storms and high winds would fuel blazes, but no lightning developed and the winds moderated, officials said.

Fire officials on Sunday confirmed that two cabins run by the U.S. Forest Service have been destroyed by wildfires. They include Riders Cabin and the Table Mountain A-frame rental cabin, a popular destination located near Blewett Pass for stargazers, snowmobilers and other recreationists.

Lightning-sparked wildfires have burned thousands of acres of brush, grass and forest in Washington, and thousands of firefighters have been working for weeks to steer them away from hillside homes and communities.

“There’s nothing to stir the fires up today,” Matt Fugazzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Sunday. A weak cold front may bring winds on Tuesday, adding a level of concern, but it’s not a particularly strong one, he added.

Alan Hoffmeister, a spokesman for the Wenatchee Complex fire, which includes multiple blazes in Chelan County, said firefighters made good progress Saturday, and many of the fires within the complex saw little or no growth. That fire was about 30 percent contained and had burned about 66 square miles as of Sunday morning.

“We’re sending a lot of our firefighters home today,” Hoffmeister said Sunday. He said fewer than 200 homes near Mission Ridge are under mandatory evacuation.

But the wildfire threat for some homes in Chelan County is easing as firefighters report progress against blazes in Washington.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday night that there was a reduced threat to homes in three areas – Sky Meadows, Brisky Canyon Road and Camas Meadows – and cut the evacuation level to I, meaning residents should be prepared to leave if the situation changes.

“Because of the smoke and cooler temperatures, the fire has been less vigorous, which is good news,” said Jane Chavey, a spokeswoman at the Table Mountain fire. The blaze – one of several wildfires burning on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range – has scorched about 47 square miles and was about 10 percent contained.

“We’ve made real inroads on the west and south side of the fire, and keeping the fire at bay,” she said.

In southwest Washington, a fire burning nearly 14,000 acres on the south slope of Mount Adams has closed the Mt. Adams Wilderness Area and nearby forest areas. Fire officials say they’re working to keep the fire from moving east onto the Yakama Nation, state and private lands.

State Department of Ecology officials on Sunday warned that air quality remains hazardous in the Wenatchee, Cashmere and Pateros area from the thick smoke. They are advising residents to stay indoors, limit physical activity and keep doors and windows closed.

Areas nearest to the wildfires will continue to see poor air quality, but an increase in winds will help with smoke dispersion, Ecology officials said. Air quality in Eastern Washington should gradually improve, they said.

Tags: wildfires

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