July 20, 2014 in Region

Fire near Cheney grows to 13,000 acres

Staff and wire reports
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

A firefighting plane drops water from Fishtrap Lake on a stubborn wildland fire burning near the lake in Lincoln County Sunday, July 20, 2014. The fire started Saturday afternoon and spread to several thousand acres, driven by high winds.
(Full-size photo)

A fast-moving wildfire burning across rangeland southwest of Cheney grew to about 13,000 acres Sunday but no longer was threatening homes.

About 280 firefighters were working the Watermelon Hill fire near Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County. It’s one of five large wildfires in Washington, plus 10 in Oregon and one in central Idaho, that have scorched hundreds of square miles in the past week.

Cooler temperatures and lighter winds gave firefighters a break Sunday, but more lightning and windy weather is forecast this week. A “vigorous” front is expected to cover Washington on Wednesday, bringing rain to much of the state but also lighting, said Spokane-based National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Koch.

“The benefits of the system are still up in the air,” Koch said. “We may get some rain where we need it, but we may also experience some lighting that could cause some new ignitions.”

Dry, breezy conditions could follow on Thursday, according to the week’s forecast.

The Watermelon Hill fire was sparked Saturday by three people shooting exploding targets, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said. It spread quickly, moving northeast, and forced campers to flee the Fishtrap Lake Resort on Scroggie Road. The campers were waiting to return to the resort Sunday.

Initially the fire threatened up to 100 structures, but evacuation orders were downgraded Sunday morning as the flames moved away from populated areas. Some horse owners took their animals to a shelter at the Cheney Rodeo Grounds.

Elsewhere in Washington, the Chiwaukum Complex fire northwest of Leavenworth had burned 11,051 acres and continued to grow. The Mills Canyon fire north of Wenatchee has burned 22,571 acres, and the Saddle Mountain Fire in Kittitas County has burned 20,200 acres.

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