The Wolverine fire near Lake Chelan is spreading and moving closer to Holden Village and Stehekin.
Holden Village is a place of transformation. Nestled in a remote area of the North Cascades, villagers in the year-round community and former mining town say they experience spiritual change as they take part in environmental change.
As the massive Wolverine fire moves steadily toward the village, community members are staying positive, according to its executive director, even if they are no longer at the site. The area was evacuated July 31.
“Our community continues to be really strong, even when we can’t see the end of what is going to happen,” co-executive director Chuck Hoffman said Thursday from the village, where a small team remained.
The Wolverine fire near Lake Chelan expanded to about 43 square miles (27,394 acres) Friday morning, and is 20 percent contained, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The blaze is about 4 miles east of Holden Village and a mile southwest of Stehekin, Chelan County.
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Hoffman and his wife, Peg Carlson-Hoffman, received a knock on their door in late June and were told a lightning strike had sparked a fire. The knock came a day after they were installed as co-executive directors at the retreat center, which is about 10 miles from Lucerne and accessible only by gravel road. The site is considered one of the most isolated places in the continental United States that is inhabited year-round.
The 300 villagers and workers had held mock evacuations, so they were ready a month later when the fire grew to thousands of acres. The last time they had to evacuate was in 2007, during the Domke Lake complex wildfire.
“There was no panic, there was no fear. We were prepared for it,” Hoffman said. “And in true Holden fashion, as we were going out, we were playing drums.”
Holden Village will hold a service Saturday evening in Seattle to pray for the village and those affected by the fire. The service begins at 6:30 p.m. at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, 7500 Greenwood Ave. N.
Crews created a secure fire line around the village Thursday, fire-information officer Wayne Patterson said. The village’s metal roofs and large sprinkler systems will also help if the fire does reach the area.
“We’re feeling like we can handle it if the fire makes it that far,” Patterson said. “But we’re hoping to stop it before it gets there.”
Helicopters dropped water on the fire Thursday, after air operations were shut down the day before because of high winds and poor visibility from smoke. Firefighters were preparing a fire line along the Stehekin River Trail to prevent the flames from spreading toward Stehekin and are trimming brush and cut limbs from trees in Holden Village.
Rock and fire debris are falling on the road from Lucerne to Holden, however, making it difficult to keep the road open for crews.
About 400 firefighters are in Chelan County battling the Wolverine fire, the 687-acre Goode fire and the 170-acre Blankenship fire. The fires are zero percent contained, but more crews arrived Thursday to help battle the fires, rather than just setting up a defensive strategy, Patterson said.
The Highway 8 fire near Roosevelt, Klickitat County, grew to 37.5 square miles by Thursday, but it is 50 percent contained. Officials said the fire is no longer threatening any homes. Crews hope to have it 100 percent contained by Saturday evening.
“We still have a very long fire season ahead of us,” Pearce said.