Wenatchee wildfire threatens 8 homes

Wenatchee wildfire threatens 8 homes
July 6, 2014 Saddle Rock fire at Wenatchee. Pictures show north side of Saddle Rock above Sky Line Drive. Photo courtesy: Chelan Co. Sheriff’s Office

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - Authorities on Sunday urged residents of eight homes near a brush fire on a hillside in central Washington to evacuate and advised those living in an additional 60 residences that they may need to flee if conditions worsen.

Residents of the eight homes in Wenatchee were strongly encouraged to stay away because wind gusts of 20 to 25 mph were expected Sunday evening, said Rich Magnussen of the Chelan County sheriff's emergency management team.

Most people likely went back to their homes after leaving initially, he said, adding that a shelter set up at a church for the evacuees reported that no one checked in.

"We can't make those people leave," Magnussen said, noting that Washington state law does not allow for forced evacuations.

The fire came as close as 20 feet to one building, but no structures have been damaged, officials said.

The Skyline Drive Fire was reported at 2:15 a.m. Sunday, and its size was revised down later in the day to about 180 acres, based on more accurate mapping and satellite data. Visual estimates initially put it at about 300 to 400 acres in the rough, hilly terrain.

The blaze is about 90 percent contained. About 100 firefighters - from Douglas and Chelan counties, as well as the Department of Natural Resources - and three helicopters doing bucket drops battled the fire.

Investigators from the Washington Department of Natural Resources were working to determine the cause of the fire burning in sagebrush and dry grass near a recreational trail system known as Saddle Rock, which was partially closed. No lightning was reported in the area, Magnussen said.

Winds were expected to pick up Sunday evening, but Magnussen said gusts exceeding 20 mph had not yet been seen.