Washington Wildfires Growing Rapidly

CHELAN, Wash. (AP) -- Two fires near Lake Chelan grew more than a thousand acres each in 24 hours, the Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center reported Monday.

The Beebe Bridge fire, east of the lake and the Columbia River in Douglas County, sped through sage brush and scrub in steep terrain to cover about 2,000 acres by midday.

The Pot Peak fire, 15 miles west of the lake in the Twenty-Five Mile Creek Drainage, had covered 3,470 acres with containment at zero percent, said center spokesman Marc Hollen. More than 830 firefighters were on the 10-day-old fire, with 12 helicopters, 24 engines and other heavy equipment in steep terrain.

There were no reports of structure damage or serious injuries in either blaze.

The Beebe Bridge fire, which started Saturday when an owl carrying a chick hit a power line, was 30 percent contained, said spokesman Ray Steiger with a Department of Natural Resources' incident-management team that set up headquarters Monday at Chelan Falls State Park.

Firefighters were trying to knock it down before high winds forecast later in the week, he said.

``If we do well and hit it right, and the weather doesn't change on us too rapidly, we should be all right,'' Steiger said.

Strong winds were expected to hit the area Wednesday, said Marc Hollen of the interagency center. A lack of rain has brought fire season early this year, and grass and forestland across the state are tinder-dry.

The 116 firefighters on site were backed up by five helicopters, 35 engines and other gear, said David Widmark at the interagency center. More personnel were being brought in, he said.

The choppers were taking water from the Columbia and Lake Chelan to put out hot spots, Steiger said. Crews were trying to keep the fire out of nearby wheat fields and other crops.

Irrigated land actually could help slow the flames, Widmark said.

On Sunday, the Beebe Bridge fire was considered a threat to the Chelan Hills Development near the city of Chelan in northcentral Washington.

But crews were able to burn fuel in its path and direct flames away from the houses, said Scott Logan of Douglas County Fire District 4, who oversaw the firefighting effort until the state team took over Monday.

One of the issues for firefighters was rattlesnakes, Steiger noted. ``Country that hasn't burned over - there's going to be rattlesnakes in there.''

Working the Hopkins Canyon fire in northeast Washington remained a full-time job Monday, even though it was contained late Sunday at 8 square miles. ``We still don't have it under control,'' Widmark said.

The Freezeout fire in near the U.S.-Canadian border in the Pasayten Wilderness remained at 150 acres and 17 percent containment.

All but the Beebe Bridge fire were caused by lightning.

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