Firefighters Try To Gain Upper Hand In Washington Before Lightning Hits

DRYDEN, Wash. (AP) -- Firefighters across central Washington worked Friday to gain the upper hand on several wildfires as forecasters predicted possible new lightning strikes this weekend.

About 30 homes remained evacuated, with residents of another 40 homes put on notice they might have to leave because of the Fischer fire near here, about 20 miles northwest of Wenatchee. The fire was estimated at 1,780 acres on Friday, fire information officer Stefani O'Connor said.

Near Naches, northwest of Yakima, seven homes remained evacuated along a mountain road as a nearby wildfire grew to about 4,200 acres, said Dale Warriner, fire information officer.

Residents of another 45 homes along the Naches River were on notice they might have to flee if the Mud Lake fire grew. The fire was burning in grass, sagebrush and timber, but it was 60 percent contained Friday.

About 375 firefighters were assigned to the Mud Lake fire. No structures had burned, and no injuries were reported.

Firefighters again battled high temperatures and low humidity across the state Friday. Predictions for the weekend were even worse: continued high temperatures and low humidity, with the addition of dry thunderstorms and lightning.

``It all adds up to high potential for new starts from the lightning and erratic fire behavior from existing fires,'' said Carol Tocco, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Fire Center in Portland, Ore.

More than 700 firefighters were assigned to the Fischer fire, which was burning on private, state and national forest land. It was 30 percent contained and was believed to be human-caused.

About 425 firefighters continued to monitor a complex of three fires burning near Lake Chelan in north-central Washington. The Pot Peak-Sisi Ridge complex remained at 46,970 acres and was 85 percent contained.

Lightning caused all three fires in the complex -- the Pot Peak fire on June 26 and the Deep Harbor and Sisi Ridge fires on July 19. The Deep Harbor fire burned a dock and picnic shelter at a campground.

The cost of fighting the three fires stands at more than $20 million.

In far north-central Washington, about 75 firefighters were fighting the lightning-cased Mebee fire about a half-mile north of the North Cascades Highway. The fire was estimated about 234 acres. The highway remained open.

Ninety firefighters were assigned to the Rattlesnake Peak fire about 40 miles west of Yakima. The lightning-caused fire has burned about 570 acres in an area that had not burned for 60 years.

Firefighters contained a blaze on the Yakama Indian Reservation Thursday night, said Edwin Lewis, a forest manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That fire was estimated to have burned 770 acres of grass and sagebrush along U.S. 97, about 15 miles southwest of Toppenish.