Evacuations Continue In Washington Wildfire

DRYDEN, Wash. (AP) -- Residents of about 18 homes near here were allowed to return home Wednesday after they were evacuated due to a wildfire, but 24 other homes remained evacuated and dozens of other residents were on evacuation alert.

The Fischer fire about 20 miles northwest of Wenatchee in north-central Washington had grown to about 850 acres by Wednesday evening, said fire information officer Stefani O'Connor. The fire started Sunday evening and was believed to have been caused by humans, although the exact cause remained under investigation.

The fire, which burned actively within its perimeter Wednesday, was about 25 percent contained, she said.

Elsewhere in Washington, a helicopter pilot was killed while ferrying supplies to firefighters in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness northwest of Leavenworth, also in north-central Washington.

One house was evacuated and a dozen others were put on notice in the Yakima area as the Mud Lake fire seven miles northwest of Naches doubled in size, to 2,600 acres, said Jim Kohl of Yakima County Fire District No. 6.

State Highway 410 was closed for several hours Wednesday afternoon as the Mud Lake fire burned down a hill to the roadside, but the highway was later reopened, Kohl said.

``They pretty well thought they had it this morning until it blew up on them,'' he said. That fire was believed to have been started by a downed power line on Monday.

No structures have burned in the state's active wildfires.

Killed in the helicopter crash was pilot Mike Ward, 55, of Clayton, Ga., said Rick Acosta of the U.S. Forest Service. Ward, an employee of Helicopter Express of Lawrenceville, Ga., was alone in the aircraft.

The cause of the Bell 205 helicopter crash was under investigation.

In the Fischer fire, 20 homes remained evacuated in Williams Canyon and another four in Jude Canyon while nearly 70 homes in Ollala Canyon were put on evacuation alert, O'Connor said.

Eighteen homes in Derby Canyon were reopened Wednesday.

About 400 firefighters were assigned to the fire, which was burning on private, state and national forest land.

Fire crews reported a new fire in the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests west of Winthrop in far north-central Washington.

The Mebee fire, which started Tuesday, was estimated at about 100 acres and was burning in heavy standing timber about a half-mile north of the North Cascades Highway, several miles west of Rainy Pass. The highway remained open.

Near Lake Chelan, firefighters continued to monitor a complex of three fires that has been burning for weeks. The Pot Peak-Sisi Ridge complex remained at 46,970 acres and was 85 percent contained.

About 450 firefighters were assigned to the three fires.

All three fires in the complex were started by lightning _ 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 $19 million.

Eighty 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.

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