Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Pioneer Fire expands to 1,172 acres, challenging firefighters in rugged Lake Chelan area

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CHELAN — The Pioneer Fire burning in the steep, remote terrain along the north shore of Lake Chelan has grown to 1,172 acres, posing significant challenges for firefighters, according to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Northwest Incident Management Team 13 (NWIMT13) assumed command of the fire at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, working closely with stakeholders to protect private structures and National Forest assets from the blaze, which started on June 8 approximately 31 miles northwest of Chelan.

A cold front moving through the area contributed to significant fire growth on Tuesday, with the fire consuming an additional 500 acres. Firefighters are utilizing the Lakeshore Trail and constructed handlines to protect structures along the lakeshore between Pioneer Creek and Rex Creek, while aircraft provide water drops to support the ground efforts.

The rugged terrain and dry, dead, downed logs in inaccessible areas continue to fuel the fire, which may persist on the landscape for an extended duration, according to Incident Commander Brian Gales. A support camp is being established at Lucerne to meet the needs of the 164 firefighters working in the remote locations, with all personnel and supplies transported by boat or barge.

Chelan County Emergency Management has issued Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation orders for the area around Rex Creek and Level 1 (Be Ready) orders extending from Prince Creek north to Cascade Creek. A closure order is in process for the Lakeshore Trail from Prince Creek to Moore Point and portions of the Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness, including several boat-in campgrounds and trails.

The cause of the Pioneer Fire remains under investigation, with authorities urging individuals possessing information or photos pertinent to the fire's early stages on June 8 to contact Wildland Fire Investigator Bruce Long.

Recreational boaters are asked to provide ample space for aircraft utilizing Lake Chelan for water collection, and the public is advised to follow forest closure orders for their safety and the safety of the firefighters.

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