CHELAN COUNTY, Wash. - About 1,200 acres of land are scorched in a community southwest of Chelan as firefighters work to contain the Stayman Flats wildfire. Washington State Department of Natural Resources said the fire was 80% contained as of Wednesday afternoon.
Flames have yet to consume any buildings, and firefighters say that’s due in part to the aggressive attack on the fire.
"Hotter temperatures and winds have made a challenging fire-fight as well as the rugged terrain. But with those significant air resources and ground resources committed, progress is being made," said Ryan Rodruck, public information officer with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Rodruck said the wildfire started Monday afternoon. Crews removed flammable plant materials on the east and west flanks of the fire to keep it from spreading.
"We also have put significant air emphasis on this fire. We have four fixed-wing fire bosses, two heavy air tankers and three helicopters working the fire as we speak," said Rodruck.
Planes are using water from the Columbia River to attack the flames. Crews are also battling the fire by land with a significant amount of resources, said Rodruck.
"There were three fires, individual fires in the canyons," said Tami Crosby who lives in the Level 1 "be ready" Evacuation zone.
Crosby said she was returning home Monday when she saw flames from the road.
"I don’t think I’ve ever driven down Stayman Flats Road so fast in my life," said Crosby.
Washington’s lengthy cold and wet spring sprouted more shrubs in the hills that have dried out by the summer sun.
"We did have what we would consider a later start to the wildfire season just because of the excess moisture in the fuels. However, now that we have some hotter dryer temperatures coming in, those fuels are drying out rapidly and the fire danger is increasing," said Rodruck. "There is more of a fuel load this year just because we had that late season moisture. Gave those fuels a chance to grow bigger and as they cure out it is going to raise that fire danger as we’re seeing here today."
As crews fight the fire by land and air, DNR is also working to determine what sparked it. The locals said they have an idea of what happened.
"We had lightning here [Monday] morning about 6:00 A.M. that shook this house like no other. It was crazy," said Crosby.
Several roads will remain closed until the fire is contained. With fire danger increasing this summer, DNR said everyone should use an abundance of caution to prevent fires from happening elsewhere.
"If we’re out for recreation, RVs and boats, make sure those chains are secure and not dragging. Make sure that you are paying attention to the fire restrictions on the area both for outdoor burning and campfires. And just be very well aware that any spark in these hot dry conditions can start a wild fire," said Rodruck.
DNR said humidity and wind gusts in the forecast could remain a challenge for crews fighting the Stayman Flats wildfire. Chelan County Emergency Management will continue monitoring threats from the fire to determine evacuation levels for the community.