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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Wenatchee area fire grows to 45,000 acres and sends smoke into Spokane

Smoke from the Sutherland Canyon fire as seen from Willow Springs Road in Grant County. (Courtesy of the Grant County Sheriff’s Office)
By Mike Prager and Jonathan Glover The Spokesman-Review

The first wave of wildfire smoke this season spread into the Spokane area Wednesday morning, but cleared out by Thursday morning.

The blue haze from smoke arrived from a series of three fires that have burned more than 50,000 acres south and east of Wenatchee.

In a Thursday morning update, fire officials said the Sutherland Canyon fire grew from 45,000 acres late Wednesday to 47,500 acres on Thursday morning. It is 20 percent contained.

On the west side of the Columbia River, the Spartan fire grew to 9,000 acres and was 60 percent contained on Thursday.

Three separate fires began about 15 miles southeast of Wenatchee on Monday evening, when Central and Eastern Washington experienced heavy thunderstorms.

The fires were caused by the lightning from those storms, officials said Thursday.

Winds were variable and changing direction on Thursday morning, but still gusting to 21 mph out of the northeast in Douglas County to the north. The gusts eased by late morning.

Wenatchee had 7 mph winds from the west with relative humidity near 40 percent.

On Thursday, the Grant County Sheriff issued a Level 2 evacuation notice to residents living between Baird Springs Road-NW and Road L-NW; north to Road 20-NW; south to top of Monument Hill; and east to Sagebrush Flats Road.

Evacuation notices were in place across the fire area north of Quincy.

“Level 2 evacuations indicate there is a significant risk to your area. The fire is moving closer to you. A mandatory evacuation order may be issued at any time. Now is the time to prepare for immediate evacuation. Residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family of friends outside of the area, or be ready to leave at a moment’s notice,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Firefighters were concentrating on the southern portion of the fire to protect the city of Quincy. Flines were dug overnight Wednesday.

In Spokane, a shift in wind direction cleared wildfire smoke from the area, but fire officials said the smoke could return later.

Another fire in that area was the Straight Hollow Fire at about 6,000 acres 20 miles south of East Wenatchee, but it merged with the Sutherland Canyon fire.

The Spartan fire was burning about 9 miles southeast of Wenatchee.

Yet other fires started Wednesday afternoon, including one on a ridge top near Shore Acres at Loon Lake, another near Thorpe along Interstate 90 west of Ellensburg, and one north of Davenport. Both were controlled.

Isolated thunderstorms were expected in the region about the time the Loon Lake fire started. Air and ground crews quickly slowed its progress, authorities said, but it grew to about 10 acres.

About 10 a.m. Wednesday, smoke from the Grant County fire drifted into the Spokane region leaving a light blue haze over the city and worsening air quality.

Plumes from the fires were clearly visible on satellite images. Spokane was on the northern edge of today’s plume. Also, smoke that held close to the ground in the Columbia Basin overnight also drifted into the Spokane region, said Joey Clevenger, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

In Grant County, residents from Trinidad to Road N-NW and those living along Baird Springs Road east from Crescent Bar Road were asked to gather personal belongings and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Sheriff’s deputies urged people to gather emergency supplies, including bedding, medication, soap, debit and credit cards.

The Grant County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday issued an indefinite countywide burn ban. Recreational fires are still allowed in campgrounds with prior approval, in addition to open flames associated with gas or charcoal barbecues.

The National Weather Service lifted a red flag warning in the area, which means critical fire weather conditions of strong winds and low humidity had eased..

Wenatchee reported wind gusts up to 27 mph Wednesday afternoon.

Level 2 evacuation orders remain in place for some parts of Chelan and Grant counties.