The Chuweah Creek fire has grown to 34,694 acres — which is 54 square miles and more than half the size of Seattle’s 83-square-mile land area. However, evacuation orders for residents in Nespelem were downgraded to Level 1 from Level 3.
The Okanogan County blaze in North Central Washington, one of three first reported Monday and believed to have been caused by lightning, is still actively growing, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
It was 20% contained as of Friday. Full containment is estimated by July 23, according to the NWICC, despite gusty winds expected east of the Cascade Mountains through the weekend.
“Existing large fires again demonstrated active to extreme fire behavior as conditions remain dry,” the NWICC said in its report Friday.
Andy Joseph Jr., chairperson of the Colville Business Council, told The Wenatchee World that the Chuweah Creek fire is the largest of six in the area and has burned seven homes and seven outbuildings.
Level 2 evacuation notices, which mean get ready to leave, remain in place for residents of Owhi Flats along Cache Creeks Road, Buffalo Lake and McGinnis Lake.
A crew of 200 is fighting the Chuweah Creek fire using an aggressive air strategy and fire lines cut with bulldozers, according to the incident report, though the fire is expected to grow this weekend due to gusty winds and low relative humidity in the forecast.
A shelter is still in place for evacuees in the town of Coulee Dam, at the Lake Roosevelt Junior and Senior High School.
More evacuations were downgraded in part of Chelan County on Friday as crews continued to make progress on the Red Apple fire near Wenatchee.
Despite winds, the fire, which started Tuesday evening, showed little growth overnight Thursday. An estimated 11,000 acres have been burned, with only 10% containment.
Officials said they expect to give an update Saturday showing progress in containment.
The Wenatchee World reported no homes were burned, though a few outbuildings and a transmission tower on Burch Mountain were damaged or destroyed. Air attacks continued Friday with the primary focus on stopping spread into Warner, Swakane and Nahahum canyons.