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Hikers, campers evacuated by new blaze

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COLES CORNER — A new wildfire burning northwest of Leavenworth quickly grew to nearly 500 acres on Tuesday, prompting the evacuation of a wilderness camp, closure of a highway rest stop, and warnings to campers in the area.

The Chiwaukum Creek Fire started about three miles south of Coles Corner on the valley floor west of Highway 2, and spread up heavily forested slopes on U.S. Forest Service and Weyerhauser lands.

Fire spokeswoman Laurie Dowie said 60 firefighters and some helicopters were reassigned from the Mills Canyon Fire near Entiat on Tuesday to begin battling the new blaze. More crews and resources will move to the Chiwaukum fire today.

The fire’s rapid growth prompted level 3 evacuations of the Chiwaukum and Coulter Creek drainages and Scottish Lakes High Camp. Forest Service trail crews hiked into Chiwaukum Creek, Gill Creek, Lake Ethel, Lake Julius, Loch Eileen and Lake Donald trail systems to clear out hikers.

The Nason Creek Rest Area on Highway 2 is closed and being used to stage fire crews.

Evacuation advisories have also been issued on the west side of Highway 2 between Winton and the rest area.

The Chiwaukum fire is now under the command of the management team overseeing the Mills Canyon Fire.

Dowie said the fire is actively burning the southwest. It has the potential to spread quickly through the densely forested terrain. She said the greatest concern is about it spreading to the north and east toward homes and other structures. There are BNSF Railway structures in the area, she added.

Reach Michelle McNiel at 509-664-7152 or . Follow her on Twitter at @MichelMcNielWW.