Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Pioneer Fire expands, evacuation orders increase amid challenging conditions

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CHELAN -- The Pioneer Fire northeast of Chelan has grown to 5,465 acres with 14% containment, officials reported Friday. The blaze, which ignited on June 8, continues to challenge firefighters as it burns through the Chelan Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and adjacent private lands.

Incident Commander Nate LeFevre of Northwest Incident Management Team 7 is directing 550 personnel in the firefighting effort. Crews have made progress this week, strengthening fire lines and implementing point protection measures.

On Thursday, firefighters employed an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to remove fuel between Prince Creek and the fire's southern flank. By 5 p.m. that day, they had secured the fire to the north edge of the Prince Creek drainage. However, around 7 p.m., the fire jumped Prince Creek into the Canoe Creek drainage, prompting a rapid response from helicopters and ground crews.

"We're facing critical weather conditions with excessive heat, low humidity, and gusty winds," fire managers warned. "This is likely to increase fire behavior and potential spread."

In response to the fire's growth, Chelan County has upgraded evacuation levels. The area between Prince Creek and Lone Fir Creek is now under a Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation order. A Level 2 (Be Prepared) notice is in effect from Moore Creek to Prince Creek.

Despite the ongoing firefighting efforts, officials emphasize that the communities of Stehekin, Chelan, and Manson remain open to visitors.

The cause of the fire, confirmed as human-caused, remains under investigation.

For the latest evacuation information and forest closures, residents and visitors are urged to check official county and U.S. Forest Service websites.

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