Rocky Reach Fire Update – Sunday, July 15
Photo: View of Rocky Reach Fire taken from across the Columbia River at the old Badger Mountain Lookout site in Douglas County, 8 a.m. Sunday, July 15. Credit: USFS – R. Allen
Fire crews are making progress on the 2,400-acre Rocky Reach Fire that started Friday night north of Wenatchee off Highway 97A.
A heavy plume of white smoke filled the lower Wenatchee Valley yesterday from a controlled burnout to create containment lines. Today crews will do the same along the southbound shoulder of Highway 97A between milepost 202 and 203. The speed limit through the fire area has been reduced to 35 mph.
The Rocky Reach Fire started on the southwest flank of Burch Mountain about five miles northeast of Wenatchee around 8:15 p.m. Friday, July 13, burning in grass and brush. Due to dry, hot conditions, the fire rapidly spread up the hillside towards Swakane Canyon and above homes in the upper Sunnyslope neighborhood, threatening a number of residences. US 97A near Rocky Reach Dam was closed through the night.
Level 1 evacuation notices were issued for Burch Mountain and Swakane Canyon neighborhoods and there was concern for the Sunnyslope community should the fire spread southward. Chelan County Fire District #1, Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest and Washington Department of Natural Resources forces responded and worked through the night. A type 3 interagency incident management team under was mobilized yesterday, Sat., July 14, to assume command of the incident.
Yesterday as those fresh resources arrived, they were tasked with securing existing containment lines and extending them around the fire perimeter. A primary objective for the day was achieved when firefighters completed a burnout operation along the southwest flank from Burch Mountain to Highway 97A. Heavy smoke and fire equipment traffic temporarily closed Highway 97A overnight and during the morning, but the Washington State Patrol and WSDOT reopened it at noon Saturday. Crews also worked along the highway and up Swakane Canyon to cool remaining hotspots.
Today the priority is to close the last remaining section of open perimeter from near Burch Mountain eastward over to Swakane Canyon on the northern flank of the fire. Reports from overnight patrols indicate that fire activity was minimal and no significant size growth occurred, with about 2,400 acres burned.
Sections of line established yesterday will largely shift into mop up operations, cooling any remaining hotspots in the fire’s interior near containment lines or structures. Fire size estimates increased primarily as a result of the burn out operation. Additional adjustments will be made as more accurate mapping becomes available.
Four crews are on the fire today, including 147 total personnel with 15 engines, three dozers and two water tenders.
The air space over the fire area is closed to all aircraft below 7500 feet msl, including drones, except those assigned to the incident.
Officials are asking travelers to slow down for fire apparatus and residents to be cautious with power equipment and other potential fire starters this summer.