The Wolverine fire in Chelan County grew to more than 24,000 acres as officials planned to expand evacuation efforts near popular Lake Chelan.
Officials were making plans to expand evacuation efforts near Lake Chelan Monday as the nearly 38-square-mile Wolverine fire continued to grow.
The blaze has destroyed at least one structure, created hazardous air-quality conditions and forced hundreds of people to leave their homes, campgrounds and businesses near the popular lake.
Started by a lightning storm more than a month ago, the fire grew quickly to thousands of acres over the weekend and on Tuesday continued to advance along the lake. The fire was 25,634 acres by Tuesday morning.
Low humidity, dry conditions, wind and the area’s lack of accessibility have posed challenges for crews to contain the flames, said Carly Reed, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service Chelan-Entiat Ranger District.
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About 350 people had already left Holden Village, Lucerne and surrounding areas by Monday afternoon. Authorities are developing new evacuation plans for the south shore and Stehekin areas that could take effect Tuesday.
The fire began June 29 3 miles northwest of Lucerne in a remote, steep area that was difficult for crews to reach, Reed said.
“This is just one that kind of got away from us,” she said. “There was just not a place to safely put firefighters on the ground.”
As of Monday, the fire was about 20 to 30 miles from Chelan, an area that bore the brunt of the smoke. Sgt. Kent Sisson, director of Chelan County Emergency Management, said crews are now focusing on protecting the Twenty-Five Mile Creek area.
Health authorities deemed the area’s air-quality “unhealthy” Monday afternoon, an improvement from its hazardous level over the weekend. Children, the elderly and people with pre-existing heart and lung diseases are at the highest risk of experiencing health complications because of the dense smoke.
Residents should stay indoors, close windows or temporarily relocate to avoid exposure, said Mary Small, spokeswoman for the Chelan-Douglas Health District.
“Everyone is impacted differently, and if they’re noticing that they’re having any sort of cough or respiratory problem, they should take those problems seriously,” she said.
No patients suffering adverse effects of the smoke had sought help at the Lake Chelan Community Hospital as of Monday afternoon, according to the hospital.
The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for much of Central and Eastern Washington, effective through Tuesday evening. The warning means winds that are forecast could combine with low humidity to produce a “potentially dangerous fire weather environment.”
The wildfire and thick smoke come at the height of tourist season. Hotels and businesses in both Stehekin and in and around the town of Chelan remained open Monday.
The North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin, the biggest business in the little village, is open, reservations manager Charlene Green said by phone Monday afternoon. And, although the wildfire is much closer to Stehekin, the town of Chelan is much smokier, she said.
“The wind is blowing from west to east and the smoke’s going down toward Chelan. We haven’t had the issues they’ve had to deal with,” Green said.
Still, she’s fielded many phone calls, and some people are canceling reservations at the lodge, she said, and rolling their deposits over to next year.
Portions of the Pacific Crest Trail are closed in the area. Hikers are advised to contact the National Park Service in Stehekin or the U.S. Forest Service office in Chelan for updates, as additional trail and area closures are expected.