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Wenatchee-area fire at 5,800 acres

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

Winds whipped a wildfire to 5,800 acres on Sunday, but firefighters managed to protect hundreds of Wenatchee-area houses threatened by the flames.

As many as 270 houses were under evacuation advisories, but those that had been under mandatory evacuation orders were downgraded, allowing residents to return, said Rick Isaacson, spokesman for the Easy Street fire.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries – one from dehydration.

The blaze, possibly linked to fireworks, was burning near Eaglerock Subdivision in the Warm Springs Canyon area, about three miles northwest of Wenatchee.

Winds gusting to 30 mph were pushing the fire to the north and east, away from houses, Isaacson said Sunday evening. There was no estimate when it would be contained, he said.

At least three outbuildings were destroyed and several houses damaged, Isaacson said.

The fire was reported about 2:15 p.m. Saturday near the Highline Canal.

Chelan County Sheriff Mike Harum told the Wenatchee World a man playing with fireworks may have sparked the fire and might be charged. Roughly 200 firefighters were battling the blaze, supported by 30 engines, four helicopters with water buckets and three retardant-dropping tanker planes.

Winds remained in the forecast, Isaacson said, with high temperatures and and increased chance of lighting.

“It looks like it’s calmed down a little bit, but it’s unpredictable,” he said.

In northeast Washington, a brush fire had burned about 1,000 to 1,200 acres in the vicinity of the old mining town of Nighthawk near the Canadian border. The fire just west of Oroville was burning in grass, sage and scattered timber on federal Bureau of Land Management land, and no structures were threatened.

Retardant drops helped to significantly slow the fire’s progress Saturday. Its cause was not immediately available Sunday.

Meanwhile in Idaho, utility crews spent Sunday repairing wildfire-damaged transmission lines that connect two of Idaho Power’s major power substations serving the state’s most populous southern communities, a task a company official said was key to reducing the chance of “rotating outages.”

Two 345,000-volt transmission lines went down Friday when the Red Bridge fire came through and destroyed 43 power poles, including one that knocked out the Mid-Point Substation near Shoshone when it fell on a transformer.

The 45,000-acre fire was contained Saturday night and the lines were holding Sunday, said Brock Astle, an information officer with the Twin Falls District of the Bureau of Land Management.

Jeff Beaman, director of corporate communications, told the Associated Press on Sunday the substation had been repaired, but had no estimate on when the transmission lines might be operational.

He said if they weren’t repaired by today, when energy use climbs with the start of the workweek, and if temperatures remain high, the company might not be able to meet demand.

More than a dozen fires started in Idaho since Friday, including the Warm Springs fire in Payette National Forest in western Idaho that was burning through grassland and brush. By Sunday it had grown to 26,500 acres and forced the temporary evacuation of 12 ranches, said Denise Cobb, acting public affairs officer for the forest.

“Yesterday, there were fires happening all across the United States and it was hard to get resources,” Cobb said Sunday. “Today it has cooled down and the winds are a little bit lighter and we’ve been getting a lot more resources.”

She said about 100 people, one helicopter, and four single-engine air tankers were fighting the blaze, which was 10 percent contained.

The second largest fire in the state, according to the Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center, is the Black Pine 2 fire about 11 miles southeast of Malta in southern Idaho. It was about 22,000 acres with no containment.

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