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Chiwaukum Fire growth slowed

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Jana Witkowski, a lifeguard at the Leavenworth swimming pool, cleans ash and burnt embers from the bottom of the pool Thursday. The pool was closed all day because of the amount of particles in the pool.

PLAIN — While the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Plain and Winton still remains officially uncontained, fire bosses managed to hold down its growth Thursday and keep it boxed west of Highway 2.

High winds that drove the Stokes Road Fire into the heart of Pateros yesterday were far kinder at Chiwaukum, thanks to the natural wind buffers of the canyons, said Bob MacGregor, fire information officer with Pacific Northwest Team 3.

Due to some variations of topography there, when the wind did come up, it did not hit the active fire above Route 2,” MacGregor said.

Firefighters had been warned of potentially explosive conditions, including heavy wind and heat. Instead, the fire flared in concentrations of brush and timber largely within the existing firelines. “It sort of showed where the fire was hot, so we were able to get some crews in and drop water,” MacGregor said.

Still, further hazardous weather conditions were predicted for the region today, with dry air and breezes expected in the afternoon. State air quality monitors were offline Friday morning, but the Chiwaukum and other fires in the Mills Canyon and Carlton complexes continued to pump smoke downriver into the Wenatchee Valley.

Level 3 evacuation notices — a warning to leave immediately — remained in effect for 860 homes in the fire’s path, with no new notices issued Thursday. The estimated size of the fire was at 8,347 acres this morning, up from 6,600 the day before.

Staffing for Chiwaukum was augmented Thursday by 300 fire workers detailed from the Mills Canyon Fire, where containment is about 50 percent. The staffing level includes 441 people, 70 engines and 10 helicopters.

The crew’s seven bulldozers were digging on the north flank of the Chiwaukum fire today, hoping to establish a fireline from the wilderness boundary to Highway 2. Crews will continue to work along a 14-mile stretch of the highway, which remains closed from Leavenworth to Coles Corner. MacGregor said they’d focus on keeping hot spots down and blocking any fire progress across the road

I think everyone’s feeling a lot better about this fire,” MacGregor said.

Reach Jefferson Robbins at 509-664-7123 or . Follow him on Twitter at @JRobbinsWW. Contact him securely by PGP key.