The Chiwaukum Creek fire scorched some 465 acres by early
Wednesday as it raged unchecked through timber in the
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and private land owned by
Weyerhaeuser company, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Laurie Dowie
By afternoon, a plume of smoke 20,000 feet high was visible in
Seattle, about 100 miles to the west. Evacuation orders were issued
for some 860 homes north of Leavenworth as flames advanced on the
area, Dowie said.
A lengthy stretch of U.S. Highway 2 from Leavenworth, a resort town
modeled to resemble a Bavarian hamlet, to another Alpine ski area at
Stevens Pass was closed to traffic, she said.
Dowie said there were no immediate reports of property damage or
injuries from the blaze, which erupted at mid-day on Tuesday, one of
several fires burning on the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
The much larger Mill Canyon fire further east near the town of
Entiat, along the Columbia River, has blackened at least 22,500
acres but was 40 percent contained, fire officials said. Earlier
evacuations prompted by that blaze have since been lifted, but three
outbuildings were damaged.
A wider outbreak of wildfires in the Cascades, including six blazes
ignited Tuesday after lightning strikes, prompted state officials to
declare an emergency for 20 counties in eastern and central
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"Extreme fire weather conditions and a lack of available
firefighting resources in the Pacific Northwest could hamper future
firefighting efforts in the state," Washington's Emergency
Management Division said in a statement.
The blazes were the latest to strike in parched western states as
the summer fire season heats up, fueled by low humidity, high
temperatures and high winds. Temperatures in Entiat reached 110
degrees Fahrenheit, Dowie said.
In neighboring Oregon, at least 10 fires have broken out since late
last week, including a blaze in a rural area near the Sprague River
that destroyed six houses and 14 outbuildings, according to the
Oregon Department of Forestry.
In Idaho, a 31,000-acre fire near the city of Carey was triggered by
a lightning strike, but crews said they hoped to contain the blaze
by week's end.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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