Wind eases around fires in Washington

Sunday, August 18, 2002

CHELAN, Wash. -- Wind calmed Saturday as crews battled wildfires that had burned two houses and more than 2,000 acres across northern Washington, and some evacuees were allowed to return home.

The biggest blaze, some three miles northeast of Chelan, had burned about 1,500 acres and forced evacuation of about two dozen homes and cabins in the Cagle Gulch and Naumes areas, said Annie Larsen, a spokeswoman for the Wenatchee National Forest.

However, the wind blew at only 4 to 7 mph Saturday morning, and although gusts of up to 14 mph were expected later in the day, that's "much less than would cause problems," Larsen said.

An evacuation order for Naumes had been lifted and the Cagle Gulch area was to be evaluated, she said. No containment figure was available, Larsen said.

Smaller fires elsewhere in the region had destroyed two houses, a barn and other structures, officials said.

Across the nation, 24 large fires active Saturday had burned about 1.1 million acres in 11 states, the National Interagency Fire Center reported.

Nearly 6,900 firefighters battling the nation's largest active wildfire hoped to take advantage of higher humidity and lower temperatures Saturday.

Temperatures as high as 102 earlier in the week had helped the month-old, lightning-caused fire in southwestern Oregon and northern California grow to 419,000 acres. The Biscuit fire was 33 percent contained Saturday.

A 1,000-acre spot fire ignited overnight on the western edge of that enormous blaze, and firefighters were concerned that it could spread toward homes near the coast.

"It could go into Chetco or it could go into Pistol River. That's a real key piece to get bottled up," said Dick Fleishman, fire information office in Gold Beach, Ore.

Residents along the upper Chetco River and upper Pistol River already had been warned that they might have to evacuate.

Elsewhere, a 5-week-old wildfire about 125 miles west of Denver more than doubled in size overnight to 7,000 acres after destroying a small resort lodge, barn and some outbuildings.

On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center:

Biscuit Fire:

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