Washington Firefighters Make Progress On Wildfires

CHELAN, Wash. (AP) -- Fire restrictions could be eased soon following significant progress in encircling one of burns near Lake Chelan, but Gov. Gary Locke asked for extra caution to avoid more wildfires in the state.

Some firefighting crews and equipment could be released from the 4,205-acre Beebe Creek fire as early as Thursday, said Nick Mickel, a fire information officer.

Authorities also were set to lift temporary flight restrictions in and around the local airport on Thursday, fire spokesman Carson Berglund said Wednesday night.

``The wind didn't give us any problems. There weren't any flare-ups, and the crews had a chance to get around the fire,'' Mickel said. ``We made great progress.''

A voluntary evacuation remained in effect for about 45 homes, though it was unclear how many people ever left the area, said Ray Steiger, a spokesman for the Beebe Bridge firefighting effort.

As of late Wednesday the fire was about 70 percent contained, officials said.

No serious injuries have been reported in that burn or the 7,200-acre Pot Peak fire 15 miles west of the lake in the Twenty-Five Mile Creek drainage, officials said.

In a news conference Wednesday, Locke urged residents to avoid carelessness with fire in the wild.

``The good news is we are making excellent progress on both of these wildfires, but the threat of fire is still very significant, and because of the very arid conditions, very dry conditions, we ask everyone to be as careful as possible to avoid any careless act that could ignite a wildfire in our state - east and west of the mountains,'' Locke said.

About 350 firefighters were assigned to the Beebe Creek fire, which charred steep, rocky grasslands and threatened 25 homes and 10 outbuildings about 3 miles east of Lake Chelan and the Columbia River in northcentral Washington

No residences have burned, but five outbuildings were destroyed.

Jack Pickett and his family fled their home Monday night and were surprised to return a day later and find the house still standing. A barn, two storage sheds and a car smoldered nearby.

``We gave a great big 'Praise the Lord!' when we got back,'' Pickett told The Wenatchee World for an article published Wednesday.

The Pot Peak fire was 35 percent contained Wednesday, said Tom Knappenberger, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

No homes were directly threatened by that blaze although there were 16 homes downstream from the head of the fire, he said.

About 930 people were assigned to the Pot Peak fire, including some elite ``hot shot'' crews.

The Freezeout fire near the U.S.-Canadian border in the Pasayten Wilderness remained at 150 acres and 17 percent containment. Fire officials from both countries planned to meet to discuss the fire, which poses a potential threat to resorts and timber in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and north of the border.

Lightning caused all the fires except the Beebe Bridge blaze, which started Saturday when an owl struck a power line.