Chiwaukum Creek fire grows to over 6,600 acres

Credit: KING

Chiwaukum Creek fire grows to over 6,600 acres

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

kgw.com

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 17 at 1:21 PM

The latest:

  • Chiwaukum Creek Fire exploded overnight to 6,638 acres; it is zero percent contained.
  • Nearly 900 homes near Leavenworth are under a Level 3 evacuation.
  • Highway U.S. 2 is closed in both directions from Stevens Pass to Leavenworth.
  • A Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 11 p.m.; temperatures are expected to reach 96 degrees with high wind gusts up to 35 mph.

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. -- Fire officials said the Chiwaukum Creek Fire burning west of Leavenworth has grown to 6,638 acres and is zero percent contained.

Washington Department of Natural Resources says 860 homes are under a Level 3 evacuation. So far there were no reports of structures burned.

The fast growing Chiwaukum Creek Fire, part of the Mills Canyon Complex, has closed U.S. 2 from milepost 64 at the Summit of Stevens Pass to milepost 99 at Leavenworth. Officials say the highway will likely be closed all day.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at First Baptist Church in Leavenworth. Evacuation levels are changing. Check the Chelan County Emergency Management Facebook page or follow on Twitter for the latest on evacuations and road closures.

The fire's smoke plume, visible for miles, rose 25,000 feet into the air.

"There's a huge cloud of smoke above us," Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who lives just outside of Leavenworth, said Thursday morning. "The winds started to pick up a little. It's just like snowfall here with the ash coming down. It's fine ash. We're getting all this ash fall."

Red Flag Warning in effect until 11 p.m.

KING 5 Meteorologist Rich Marriott says from the top of Mission Ridge, "looking down you'd normally see Wenatchee, but you're actually seeing all the smoke from eastern Washington right now."

More heat and wind gusts were forecast for Thursday and a Red Flag Warning was in effect until 11 p.m.  Temperatures were expected to top 96 degrees with sustained winds of 10-20 mph and gusts up to 35 mph in the area Thursday.

"As we head into the weekend, maybe as early as late Friday night or early Saturday, we may see a chance of showers moving into the north Cascades. That may assist firefighters farther into the weekend," said Marriott.

Related link: Check temps at weather stations east of Cascades

The fire, one of three that make up the Mills Canyon Complex, grew more than five times its size overnight Wednesday. Officials believe lightning sparked the wildfire on Tuesday; the cause is under investigation.

Mills Canyon and Kelly Mountain fires are also part of the Mills Canyon Complex. About 1,000 firefighters were on the lines at the Chiwaukum Creek fire. Mills Canyon near Entiat, the state's largest wildfire, was 40 percent contained and holding steady at about 35 square miles.

Kelly Mountain Fire, northwest of Entiat, is approximately 65 acres.

KING 5's Jake Whittenberg, Elizabeth Wiley and Liza Javier contributed to this report.

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