Posted: Sep 17, 2012 10:31 AM by Tom Yazwinski - KCPQ TV (Seattle)
Updated: Sep 19, 2012 11:16 AM
WENATCHE, Wash. -- The Wenatchee River Complex Fire turned a week old Sunday, but crews are still desperately battling the blaze that has now burned more than 34,000 acres.
The fire has caused more than 750 evacuations and brought 1,700 firefighting personnel to the Wenatchee area. But with only 17 percent containment, there's still a long ways to go, especially as firefighters deal with high winds, low humidity and difficult terrain.
Heavy smoke has grounded two firefighting helicopters and made breathing difficult for Wenatchee residents. Lisa Berdan said the smoke from the fires is worse than she could have imagined.
"It's hard to breath," Berdan said. "I have asthma so I've been upping the meds."
Pamela Peterson, an area resident, said the smoke is so bad some Wenatchee schools were closed.
"A couple of days ago they closed the schools and sent kids home," Pamela said. "You could see the smoke in the schools. I couldn't see my bedroom from my front room. My eyes were stinging."
More than 50 firefighters from Canada enlisted Sunday to help battle fires around Washington that have burned more than 100,000 acres.
On Sunday, Firefighters at the Yakima Complex fire in Yakima and Kittitas Counties battled a blaze that threatened 400 homes and had already burned 3,500 acres. The fire was at 10 percent containment.
The state's biggest wildfire, the Barker Canyon Complex located in Douglas and Grant counties near the Grand Coulee Dam has burned more than 91,000 acres. Luckily, the fire is 89 percent contained, but only after burning three homes and nine other structures. Firefighters also battled the Okanogan Complex and Cascade Creek fires, burning more than 10,000 acres together.
On Sept 8., lightning caused a fire in Mount Rainier National Park's Wilderness Area. The Three Lakes Fire was at 80 percent containment Sunday and was still burning on 5 acres. It served as a reminder that historic areas and National Parks were indeed threatened by the dry conditions, authorities said. The Laughingwater Creek Hiking Trail was closed due to the fire.
The U.S. Forest service has implemented several large area closures, in addition to several road and trail closures. The closed areas include the southern portion of the Chelan Ranger District, the northern portion of Entiat and the Chiwawa drainage in Wenatchee River Ranger districts. The Cle Elum Ranger District and the Methow Valley Ranger District also have partial closures.
(photo courtesy: USFS, R.DeMario)