Fire crews quickly doused five small fires that snarled traffic and partially closed Highway 97 for nearly an hour here Thursday afternoon.
The cause of the blazes remained unknown, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said this morning, but heat or sparks from a passing vehicle was a strong possibility.
“The winds were whipping and traffic backed up,” said the sheriff. “It was pretty crazy there for awhile.”
First reports of the roadside fires came at around 12:45 p.m. with the State Patrol arriving on the scene to close the highway around 1 p.m., said Rogers. The road closed and opened intermittently for about an hour, depending on the positioning of crews and equipment and smoke conditions.
The five fires stretched from the junction of Highway 97 and Dayton Street north to the Highway 97 bridge over the Okanogan River, a distance of about a half-mile.
“It started and was over pretty quick,” said the sheriff. “With the wind, crews wanted those fires under control as quickly as possible.”