The Wolverine fire in Chelan County grew 9,000 acres to 40 square miles in one day, threatening more than 100 homes.
The Chelan County fire that posed extreme challenges for firefighters as soon as it started more than a month ago in a remote, steep area grew 9,000 acres in one day this week, torching a total of 40 square miles and threatening more than 100 homes, officials said Tuesday.
The Wolverine fire spread south along Lake Chelan, toward Graham Harbor, west toward the Railroad Creek Drainage, and north around Manly Wham campground, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. Infrared imaging taken from a helicopter Monday evening showed that the fire was 25,634 acres, about 9,000 acres larger than Monday morning.
The lightning-caused fire was 20 percent contained Tuesday afternoon.
More than 250 firefighters were working toward stopping the fire’s northerly movement toward Stehekin and its movement south toward the Twenty-Five Mile Creek area, said Bill Queen, a spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team II. The southern edge of the fire was still more than 15 miles from the Twenty-Five Mile Creek area but could move rapidly.
Level III evacuations, which mean residents should leave immediately, remained in effect for Holden Village, Lucerne, Riddle and Lightning Creek. Lucerne and Refrigerator Harbor campgrounds are also closed. The blaze has destroyed one home and three outbuildings in the Domke Lake area.
A total of 140 single residences, as well as 60 other structures in Holden Village and Lucerne, are directly threatened, according to the Incident Management Team. Firefighters were in the Stehekin area at the far end of the lake, which has not been evacuated, and in Holden Village on Tuesday to thin out brush and cut tree limbs to protect structures in case the fire reaches these areas.
“We’re doing these kinds of mitigation measures in advance of the fire ever getting there, should that happen,” Queen said. “We’re trying to be proactive.”
Containing the fire is difficult because the area is so steep and remote, according to Queen. There are few roads in the area of the fire, so crews have to take a boat or fly to travel between the communities. The fire began June 29 but didn’t grow for several days. A group of firefighters rappelled into the area by helicopter in early July, but had to be extracted after logs rolled downhill.
Firefighters will also face challenging weather conditions, with gusty winds and low humidity forecast through Wednesday. The National Weather Service extended its red-flag warning one day, effective through Wednesday night.
“We’re expecting the fire growth to continue,” Queen said.
The air quality in areas around Chelan and Manson was listed as unhealthy but improving Tuesday afternoon, according to Chelan County Emergency Management, and those in the area were advised to limit time outdoors. However, smoke was clearing from the valley Tuesday evening, and boaters were seen on Lake Chelan, a popular tourist area.
The city of Chelan is “very far removed from the edge of the fire,” Queen said.
“Businesses in Lake Chelan are open, operating as usual and welcoming visitors,” Lake Chelan Chamber Marketing Manager Lacey Lybecker said in a statement. “We encourage all visitors to continue with their travel plans while also staying informed with the most current conditions.”