NCW — Firefighters from East Wenatchee to Tonasket handled dozens of fires sparked by hundreds of lightning strikes across North Central Washington Thursday afternoon.
Aided by heavy rain and the quick response of local fire crews, many fires were contained this morning.
Okanogan County got the worst of it.
Dispatchers were flooded with calls — so many that some were redirected to Ferry County, which acts as an emergency backup, said Chief of Special Operations Mike Worden. Dispatchers usually handle 70 calls a day in the summer. On Thursday, they handled 283 calls — the bulk of them coming from 1 to 5 p.m.
Undersheriff Joe Somday said at one point, there were 40 active fires burning in Okanogan County, but many of those were contained by dark. The largest included a 500-acre and 1,000-acre fire near Riverside, where dozens of low-level evacuation notices were given, he said.
Rain was much sparser on the state’s biggest blaze, the 80,400-acre Colockum Tarps Fire in Chelan and Kittitas counties.
“The fire didn’t get as much rain as we did in town,” said fire spokeswoman Mary Ellen Fitzgerald.
She said the wildfire continues to push toward populated areas in Kittitas County, but is mostly in mop-up stage in Chelan County. More than 800 firefighting personnel are assigned to the fire, although some firefighters are being sent north today to help with new fires sparked by the storm, she said.
Moisture from the rain also helped prevent growth on the Moore Point Fire southeast of Stehekin, still estimated at 1,500 acres, said fire spokeswoman Elka Missal.
Although many fires were contained, dozens are still burning in Okanogan County, said Jill Jones, dispatch manager for the Northeast Washington Communications Center. She said the fires have been separated into three complexes — Riverside, Aeneas Valley and the Methow Valley. Many of them are on private or state-protected land.
Eight fires are burning on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, all on the Methow Valley Ranger District, said spokeswoman Shannon O’Brien. They are all staffed and under four acres, she said.