LEAVENWORTH — Rain and cooler temperatures slowed the Eagle Fire overnight Thursday to give crews the upper hand in defending homes on the fire’s southern edge along Eagle Creek Road.
By this morning, strike teams had cleared brush and other flammables to create a 200-foot buffer to defend more than 60 homes and outbuildings beyond milepost 3 in the steep-sided valley. The effort allowed Level 3 evacuation warnings to be relaxed to Level 2 as of 8 a.m. today.
“The rain helped suppression efforts on the south, west and east flanks of the fire,” said fire spokeswoman Robin DeMario. “Now we’re waiting to see what this afternoon’s weather will bring, and if it’ll help or hinder us.”
Today’s forecast calls for unstable conditions with scattered thunderstorms — meaning possible lightning — and breezy conditions with winds of 7 to 12 mph and ridgetop gusts of 15 to 20 mph.
A fire meeting will be held at 7 p.m. today at Cascade High School, 10190 Chumstick Highway. The public is invited to hear the latest on fire size, firefighting crews, evacuation orders and suppression efforts.
Firefighters capitalized on Thursday night’s moist weather to push containment of the 1,189-acre Eagle Fire to 25 percent. Fire crews continued to arrive from across the Pacific Northwest, increasing the number of firefighters on the blaze to 838 from 569 on Thursday.
That number is expected to decline today, said DeMario, as strike teams and their trucks are reassigned to other Northwest fires. Local firefighting efforts are expected to swing to hand-crews on foot in rugged terrain on the fire’s northern edge, where fire engines and bulldozers can’t go.
A hotshot team from Redmond, Ore., will arrive on the fire’s northern edge today to help map placement of a new fire line to stem the blaze’s advance, said DeMario. Private timberlands and timber sales in the steep terrain could be threatened, but the closest homes are 1 to 2 miles away in Clark Canyon, she said.
The blaze, 5 miles northeast of Leavenworth, continued Thursday to send a thick plume of smoke from the steep hillsides and ridgetops above Eagle Creek Road. For three days, the fire forced Level 3 evacuation orders, which urge residents to leave immediately, on 30 homes. Level 2 orders, warning residents to be ready for quick departure, covered another 37 homes.