Although Rachael Petro felt relieved to be returning to an unscathed home in Sunnyslope on Thursday, she remained anxious as the Red Apple fire continued to grow near Wenatchee, forcing more evacuations.
The fire picked up rapidly overnight Wednesday as it advanced down the foothills toward homes — growing to 11,000 acres Thursday and just 10% contained, according to state and local agencies.
Fire growth shifted west Wednesday night, prompting authorities to issue Level 3 evacuation notices — leave now — to residents in Warner Canyon.
Residents of more than 1,500 homes remained under various evacuation notifications Thursday, but Warner Canyon was the only area still at Level 3, according to Ryan Rodruck, a spokesperson for fire operations. There have been no confirmed reports of destroyed homes.
“Our focus is on structure protection,” Rodruck said.
Bucket drops with water from the Columbia River continued Thursday, and a Type 1 incident management team took over command of firefighting operations.
“We’re still watching because we can just look out our front door and see active flames,” Petro said. “The firefighters and crews are just a huge blessing.”
She and her family were among the first to leave their Rolling Hill Lane neighborhood in Sunnyslope, just north of Wenatchee, after being notified to evacuate shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Feeling a bit unnerved at the notice, Petro said she got up from the living room floor where she and her husband decided to sleep with their scared 12 and 8-year-old daughters and went outside.
“You could see flames and heavy smoke,” she said. “It was an eerie sight.”
The family finished packing the bags they had started the night before after a Level 2 — get ready — evacuation was placed.
Petro mentally checked off items on her list: Clothes, heirlooms like her husband’s great-grandfather’s pocket watch, a first-aid kit, toiletries, keys, and prescriptions. She quickly added dog food and puppy essentials for their 16-month-old labradoodle.
“We have friends who lost their home in the Paradise, California, fires. They had three minutes, so to me when we get Level 1 (fire alert), I start gathering stuff because you never know how much time you have,” Petro said.
The growing flames, the smoke and the uncertainty of what’s to come, she said, has been hard for her kids to understand. As she rounded up important legal documents and indispensable family photos — always ready to go in a box — Petro reminded herself and her daughters that they were safe.
“I thought if we come home to a foundation that’s OK, it’s just stuff,” she said. “It’s replaceable, but we’re not.”
Her “heart was lifted,” when she returned Thursday to find no damage.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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