WENATCHEE — A fire near Liberty in Kittitas County became so massive and powerful on Wednesday afternoon that it began to threaten homes several miles away, near Mission Ridge.
Officials issued evacuation notices to about 200 homes in the Mission Ridge area Wednesday evening, after the 9,500-acre Table Mountain fire blew up, sending a column of smoke about 35,000 feet into the sky.
As the fire grew rapidly, it created its own weather, pushing winds in all directions, and sending burning embers with those winds.
“It almost looked like a storm up there. There were clouds on a cloudless day,” said Wenatchee Complex fire spokesman Alan Hoffmeister.
The evacuations were not the result of the Table Mountain Fires growing, but rather that it sent burning chunks of bark and twigs miles away.
No homes have burned, and no one was injured in the event.
“The falling embers from the sky, as far as we know, have not started anything significant,” Hoffmeister said this morning.
Most fires in the Wenatchee Complex remained relatively stable due to the inversion blanketing the Wenatchee Valley, he said. But there were blue skies in Liberty, feeding the Table Complex fires with unstable air movement and warmer temperatures from direct sun, he said. “You get this instability, whereas the inversion puts a lid on all that. Everything gets very stable, and not much moves.”
He said if the inversion breaks here, firefighters can expect much more active fires, and some fires could blow up like the Table Mountain fires.
Today, firefighters will continue to look for new starts that may be smoldering in the Mission Ridge area as the day warms, which can prompt small unnoticed fires to grow.
More than 600 firefighters are working on the Table Mountain Complex, which includes more than 25 fires that had been part of the Yakima Complex until Monday.
“It’s a large fire, and it’s going to be a very difficult fire to fight,” Tim Perciful, a fire spokesman for the Table Mountain Complex.
Another unnamed fire on the Wenatchee Complex that had been unstaffed also took off on Tronson Ridge, near Blewett Pass. That fire, and the threat of the Table Mountain Fire on the west side of Blewett Pass, prompted the closure of Highway 97 late Wednesday afternoon. The highway has since reopened.
Firefighters were very successful with other efforts in the Wenatchee Complex fires on Wednesday, Hoffmeister said.
“On the Canyons fire, they’re using words like mop-up and rehab,” he said. Firefighters from that blaze are being moved to other fires in the complex.
Firefighters are also getting a handle on the Poison Fire near Cashmere, he said.
“We’re getting very close to having a definite box around the Poison Fire,” he said, adding, “It’s really good news for that area today.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512