WENATCHEE — Aside from being a visual feast, Friday night’s lightning storm tumbled rocks and mud across a Wenatchee canyon road and ignited a new wildland burn near the existing Colockum Tarps Fire.
Four homes along Kingsbury Road were served with Level 2 evacuation notices after a 1,400-acre fire broke out just north of the existing Colockum Tarps Fire, near mile marker 10 on Malaga-Alcoa Highway. That incident had been dubbed the Milepost Ten Fire as of Saturday afternoon, when it grew to 2,000 acres and forced Level 3 evacuation alerts for 40 homes on Cathedral Rock Road, Jumpoff Ridge Road and Big Springs Ranch Road.
Level 2 alerts indicate a significant risk and urge residents to either leave their homes or be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Level 3 warns that fire is in the area and residents should leave immediately. About 50 homes on Jumpoff Ridge, Kingsbury and elsewhere in the Colockum were on Level 2 alert. Joe Miller Road, Stemilt Loop Road, Cathedral Rock and Kingsbury Road were closed to traffic.
Forest Ridge Road, still six to seven miles beyond the fire’s front line, was under a Level 1 evacuation advisory, urging preparedness.
The fire was burning uncontained as of Saturday evening, assaulted by three helicopters and a ground crew of about 35 people detailed from the 80,000-acre Colockum Tarps Fire. That fire, which broke out July 27, remains walled off and under control, allowing bulldozers and engines from its incident management team to address Milepost Ten.
The fire is burning through dry sagebrush and grass, nudged by winds from the south, said incident team information officer Cindy Bork. As of Saturday evening, it had not greatly affected the timber. The ridge terrain means most of the fire combat is taking place from the air, with helicopters including a heavy carrier capable of hauling 1,500 gallons of water to a drop point, she said.
“There’s not much they can do on the ground. They’re tightening up around the edges,” Bork said.
The new fire erupted about 11:05 p.m. about two miles south of Rock Island — one of many sparked by a phenomenal overnight lightning storm. And the potential for more trouble remains, with flash flood watches persisting in Chelan and Okanogan counties and thunderstorms possible through Tuesday.
Rainfall tumbled a slide across No. 2 Canyon Road about three miles up at 1 a.m., leaving a foot and a half of mud over the roadway and rendering it impassable without four-wheel drive. County road crews were summoned to clear the slide, which included a large amount of rock.
The obstruction was cleared by evening, although the ditches still held debris.
National Weather Service gauges recorded about a quarter-inch of rain at East Wenatchee’s Pangborn Memorial Airport starting after midnight. Up to half an inch was recorded on the Waterville Plateau, and up to an inch at Leavenworth.
The strikes that peppered NCW forestland — estimated more than 18,000 statewide — kept fire crews on their toes throughout the early morning. In Chelan, firefighters responded to an estimated seven to 10 brushfire calls from midnight on, including a two-alarm fire that swept uphill toward Bear Mountain Golf Course and occupied most of their attention.
“It was a wild storm,” said Chelan County Fire Dist. 7 Capt. Pat Moore. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like it before. You could literally watch starts (new fires) on the ridges over from us.” All those fires were knocked down quickly, with efforts aided by rain.
Spot fires of that type have proved relatively easy to tame, said Roland Giller, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Services firefighting efforts in the state. “They’ve had a lot of success keeping them to an acre or less,” he said. In all, 29 new central Washington fires were detected Saturday in the lightning’s wake.
Fire reconnaissance helicopters about 11 a.m. reported a one-eight acre fire burning in the Derby Canyon area, about 10 miles east of Leavenworth, burning in grass and downed timber. By 2 p.m. it had grown to about an acre to an acre and a half, and water drops were ordered. Near Tonasket, crews were facing down the 60-acre Silver Star Fire six miles northwest of town.
Rette Bidstrup, manager of the Northeast Washington Interagency Communication Center in Colville, said roughly 14 new fires started in northern Okanogan County overnight, the majority near the Oroville area.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123