Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Pioneer Fire grows to 4,634 acres


CHELAN — The Pioneer Fire, burning in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area, has expanded to 4,634 acres as of Wednesday. The blaze, which started on June 8, is located 31 miles northeast of Chelan.

Northwest Incident Management Team 7, led by Incident Commander Nate LeFevre, has taken over firefighting operations. The team is implementing a full suppression strategy, focusing on tactics that balance effectiveness with safety concerns for responders and the public.

Firefighters are establishing indirect containment lines due to the extreme terrain, particularly on the fire's eastern edge. These efforts aim to protect private and federal infrastructure, as well as recreational and environmental resources.

Near Stehekin, crews have wrapped a bridge with protective sheeting and are working northward toward Rainbow Falls, reopening fire lines from previous incidents. Firefighters are also laying hoses near cabins in the area.

On the fire's northern edge near Meadow Creek, efforts continue to protect cabins and recreation assets. Crews are removing brush near structures and maintaining pumps and sprinklers. To the south, near Prince Creek, a hotshot crew is actively protecting structures and monitoring fire spread.

Fire officials report that crews are re-opening old fire lines near Nelson Butte to connect to the lake near Safety Harbor. Additionally, improvements on the Coyote Ridge fireline are being completed as a contingency measure.

A new, small fire at Grand Harbor Campground was quickly contained by crews and air resources from the Pioneer Fire on Tuesday. Monitoring and mop-up operations will continue today.

Weather forecasts indicate a strong cold front moving through the area Wednesday afternoon, bringing gusty winds up to 25 mph along the lakeshore and 35 mph on ridgetops. The front is expected to produce moderate to heavy rainfall, which should slow fire spread but will not be sufficient to extinguish the blaze.

As of Wednesday, 529 personnel are assigned to the fire, supported by nine aircraft. Evacuation levels remain unchanged since June 16, with updates available through Chelan County's official channels.

Local communities, including Stehekin, Chelan, and Manson, remain open to visitors. However, motorists using the Grade Creek Road system should expect 30-minute delays due to increased fire personnel and equipment movement.

Fire officials continue to urge residents and visitors to monitor air quality conditions and stay informed about potential health impacts from smoke.

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


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