Washington Firefighters Take Advantage of Calm Weather; Governor Visits Scene

DRYDEN, Wash. (AP) -- Taking advantage of lower winds, firefighters near this central Washington town have dug more fire lines to try to halt the Fischer fire, which threatened hundreds of homes.

There was little movement early Friday in the fire about 20 miles northwest of Wenatchee except for a small advance in the northeast corner, probably no more than ``a few hundred acres'' based on preliminary infrared mapping, fire information officer Candace Johnson said.

A more precise figure may be known after daybreak and a briefing of fire officials, Johnson added.

No loss of buildings was reported overnight on the fire, previously estimated at 15,855 acres and 30 percent contained. More than 300 homes remained under an evacuation order, and residents of hundreds of others were on notice they also might have to leave.

One home was burned and one damaged earlier.

Gov. Gary Locke toured the fire by air Thursday afternoon, then met with local officials, law enforcement and fire crews at the command center in Leavenworth.

``I saw areas where the fire had burned down right next to homes, and were it not for the efforts of firefighters those homes would have been lost,'' Locke said by telephone.

He assured local communities the state would assist with firefighting costs, estimated at $7.9 million so far. On Aug. 11 federal officials said fire management assistance would be available, and the state freed resources for communities fighting wildfires.

Locke urged residents to be mindful of the fire danger, noting that out of six damaging wildfires in the state this year, Fischer and three others were human-caused.

``We're going to have a really high fire danger in the woods for the next several months. We are truly paying the price of the early, dry spring and summer,'' he said.

After explosive growth of the fire during high winds earlier in the week, information officer Jon Kohn said crews had a second ``very successful'' day in a row as winds subsided Thursday.

Six hours of 30 mph winds were forecast for Saturday or Saturday night, he said, leaving ``one more day before the lines are tested in all directions by wind.''

Incident commander Bob Anderson described the battle as ``a 15-round slugfest.''

About 1,780 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, which has been burning since Aug. 8 on private, state and national land. No one has been injured.

Chelan Public Utility District customers in the upper Wenatchee Valley were urged to conserve power to ease the strain on the electric system due to damaged lines.

Elsewhere, firefighters continued to battle several wildfires started by lightning.

About 560 people were assigned to the 800-acre Williams Butte fire, just inside the Sawtooth Wilderness 17 miles northwest of Twisp.

About 450 firefighters were assigned to the Pot Peak-Sisi Ridge complex of three fires which have blackened a total of 47,470 acres near Lake Chelan and were 85 percent contained. The cost of fighting those fires grew to more than $23 million.

The Dirty Face fire near Lake Wenatchee was estimated at 295 acres of heavy brush and timber in very steep terrain. The fire was 85 percent contained Thursday.

A handful of firefighters were still assigned to the smoldering Rattlesnake Peak fire, which has burned 775 acres about 40 miles west of Yakima.