Wenatchee wildfire destroys 28 homes

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WENATCHEE, Wash. —

Fire crews have reported progress fighting wildfires in tinder-dry, drought-stricken Washington state -- including the devastating Wenatchee wildfire that destroyed 29 homes and a building.

As the blaze is now 98 percent contained, residents are picking up through charred remains of their homes after the fire fueled by high temperatures and strong winds in the Sleepy Hollow community.


QUICK FACTS:


Progress against Sleepy Hollow Fire

Firefighting efforts in Wenatchee are winding down.  At the height of the Sleepy Hollow fire 336 firefighters were involved.

On Saturday, July 4th, officials said the fire was mostly contained.

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Most of those remaining on the scene will be spraying down hot-spots across a 3,000 acre charred area.  The fire destroyed 29 homes.

 “It was just home after home, after home, after home,” said Wenatchee resident Laurel Anderton.

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Investigators have "ruled out natural causes."

Incident commanders are also warning there is still great fire danger in the greater-Wenatchee region. Wednesday, the city’s mayor announced an emergency ban on lighting fireworks.  He said he was working with Chelan County on the effort.

 “Don’t risk any more damage than we’ve already seen,” Anderton begged as she stood looking out at the badly hit Broadview neighborhood.

Despite the extensive damage, authorities said there were no serious injuries. Three firefighters, out of hundreds there, had minor injuries: One needed oxygen and another had smoke inhalation.

>> UPDATED PHOTOS: Wildfire destroys homes, forces evacuations

In a Wednesday morning news conference, sad the Sleepy Hollow Fire response is now in recovery mode.

There were eight strike teams were on the ground and 247 people working to stop the fire overall. Authorities had an area of emphasis they were focusing on for the fire's orgin, but they did not know exactly what caused it.

Evacuations were reduced to level one on Tuesday.

About 30 miles southeast of Wenatchee, a new wildfire charred more than 3 square miles, or about 2,100 acres, of dry sagebrush and grass near the city of Quincy, burning some outbuildings and forcing about two dozen residents to temporarily flee their homes.

<br>Residents of Wenatchee cope with loss after Sleepy Hollow Fire

Jon Dominguez lived in one of the homes destroyed by the Sleepy Hollow Fire. Now, he finds himself reflecting on what's left of it.

“The fact this is all I have now -- it’s just heartbreaking,” he said.

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He was able to escape, as flames tore down the nearby hillside. He described it as “a big orange glow, kind of a fireball -- and a lot of black smoke billowing.”

A neighbor, Sue Gavin, pointed out the discrepancy in homes affected by the fire. Her home was okay.

“It doesn’t matter where you look. There’s nothing left here. The next one’s gone. It doesn’t make sense. It jumped around,” said Sue, pointing out homes that escaped the flames. 

A handful of businesses also were destroyed when flames spread to the downtown core.

The community held a vigil on Monday evening, as homeowners tried to help one another cope with losses.

<center><div id="fb-root"></div><script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-video" data-allowfullscreen="1" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/KIRO7Seattle/videos/1026457234040696/"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="/KIRO7Seattle/videos/1026457234040696/"><a href="/KIRO7Seattle/videos/1026457234040696/"></a><p>Fire left scorched earth in its wake, destroying homes and neighborhoods. Leave #support for the Wenatchee community. &gt;&gt; kiro.tv/WenatcheeFireOur Alison King reported for Anderson Cooper 360. Watch the whole video here &gt;&gt; http://kiro.tv/GrandeCooper</p>Posted by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/KIRO7Seattle">KIRO 7 Eyewitness News</a> on Monday, June 29, 2015</blockquote></div></div></center>

Many of the destroyed Wenatchee houses were in a the Broadview neighborhood on a hillside. Weeping residents drove through the streets Monday where burned homes sat next to ones without damage.

<br>Nearly 3,000 acres continue to burn

Firefighters on Monday kept a close eye on the blaze, which has burned more than 4 square miles. It was considered corralled enough to allow evacuees back to their homes, and the Red Cross closed a shelter that housed 155 people Sunday night at a local high school

From just across the Wenatchee River, Dominick Bonny watched a whole neighborhood in his town burn as a wildfire destroyed two dozen structures and forced hundreds to flee. Bonny, who lives just outside Wenatchee, called the speed of the blaze "just mind-blowing."

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"With the wind blowing away from us, it was like we were watching a natural disaster within arm's reach," he said.

At around noon on Monday, fire trucks poured water on a burning warehouse in downtown Wenatchee, sending big black clouds into the air over the city. Farther north of town, scorched hillsides showed where the flames were stopped just short of irrigated apple orchards and residential subdivisions.

Rainfall on Monday provided relief, but hot, dry conditions challenged crews trying to get a handle on the flames that burned more than an estimated 4 square miles, officials said.

Washington Emergency Management said a new aerial flyover of the Sleepy Hollow Fire found the fire at about 3,000 acres not 4,000 as of Monday night.

<center> <iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/132152754" width="100%" height="350" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="https://vimeo.com/132152754">Wenatchee Sleepy Hollow fire</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/user4727100">Chelan HD, Sy Stepanov</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p></center>

Albert Rookard, who lives across the Wenatchee River from the blaze, said he stayed up late watching the fire, shocked at how fast it grew.

"From here, we could see embers just flying," Rookard said. "There was fire in so many places. We could see emergency vehicles flashing across town."

Monday morning, crews desperately tried to put out the flames at a paper plant and the cherry plant next door. 

Evacuations were mainly in the north end of town and included a Walmart store, the emergency management office said. The store did not burn, but several commercial buildings were near the blaze.

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Air quality was reported unhealthy for sensitive groups at 8 a.m. on Monday.

"We recognized early that this summer would bring with it another unprecedented fire season," governor Jay Inslee said.  "That’s why last week we proactively declared a state of emergency and statewide burn ban to last through the summer. This allows state agencies to use resources necessary to respond to the fires and assist those who have been affected."

Last month, Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency. Washington's struggles with wildfires come as Alaska, its fellow Pacific Northwest state, is facing more and harsher wildfires this year.

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Railroad traffic in the area was shut down, including freight lines and Amtrak's daily Chicago to Seattle route, BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said.

The railroad helped battle the blaze by spraying water from tank cars and transferring water to firefighting trucks, he said. The flames have caused some rail damage that crews were inspecting and repairing, Melonas said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Sleepy Hollow Fire.  

<br>Shelter-in-place ordered lifted after ammonia leak

A shelter-in-place order has ended Monday afternoon after an ammonia leak from an industrial plant. Chelan County Emergency Management says the ammonia has dissipated.

<center>https://twitter.com/KIRO7Seattle/status/615600943929905153</center>

The order was in place for a half-mile south of the Bluebird Facility in Wenatchee. Emergency management asked residents in the area to shut off air conditioning, go indoors, and shut windows.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright said it was unclear how many people remained in the area, because they had already been advised to evacuate.

A Spokane strike team of engines dispatched Sunday night were actively engaged in fighting "commercial fires," which at one point included the Bluebird Facility. 

The Blue Bird warehouse, which uses ammonia for cold-storage, was among a few commercial buildings to burn.

<center>https://twitter.com/NickKIRO7/status/615654853839196160</center>

In some cases, the wind blew embers more than a mile, sparking fires there.

<br>How the Sleepy Hollow Fire started

The blaze ignited in brush just outside Wenatchee on Sunday afternoon, quickly burning out of control and also leading some businesses to evacuate customers, said Rich Magnussen, a spokesman for the Chelan County Emergency Management office.

“They are doing evacuation notifications from Western to Wenatchee Avenue from Maple to Maiden Lane,” an official with Chelan County Emergency Management wrote on the agency’s Facebook page shortly before midnight Monday. “If you are on the other side of Maple, there is no (evacuation) notification for you as of yet, but, with all the residences, it is hard to get to everyone, so if you have a place you can go, it may be the safest option.”

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Evacuations occurred at the north end of Wenatchee, and both a Walmart and a Sav-Mart store were included.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources to assist local crews battling the Sleepy Hollow Fire, which began Sunday afternoon.

The fire started as a brush fire on Sleepy Hollow Road and grew to about 2.6 square miles Sunday evening. An emergency shelter was opened at Eastmont High School, at 955 3rd St. N.E. in East Wenatchee, for people who had evacuated the area. Overnight stays were available.

The cause of the fire, which started about 2:30 p.m., is under investigation.

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Officials said there were no immediate reports of injuries Sunday evening.

According to the Wenatchee World, the temperature hit 108 degrees where the fire started Sunday afternoon.

<br>Where residents are going for help

A Red Cross shelter was  established at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, at 508 N. Western Avenue on Sunday.  The shelter moved to Eastmont High School, 955 3rd Street Northeast. 

The Red Cross continues to operate a shelter at Eastmont High School, but all shelter residents have returned to their homes as evacuation levels have been lowered to levels 1 and 2. The shelter will stay open until noon on Tuesday, unless fire conditions dictate a change in plans.

Follow this link for updates from Chelan County Emergency Management.

Country Cat Boarding in Cashmere was taking cats and small caged animals, according to Chelan County Emergency Management. The phone number there is (509) 782-8014. The agency also to check with availability at the Waterville Fairgrounds.

The Red Cross Northwest is asking for people to refrain from dropping off donated at goods at shelters. The organization says the best way to support Red Cross is by donating here or calling 1-800-Red-Cross.  To ensure you are donating to the local Northwest chapter, make sure to select the "Your Local Red Cross" option in the drop down online here.

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Hilda Emerson, 37, was among the people who fled the flames Sunday.

"I went and grabbed what I could — my computers, irreplaceable stuff, toys for my daughter — and I left," she said. "I never had to do this before."

She and her 4-year-old daughter, Nissa, spent the night on cots set up by the Red Cross in the gymnasium of Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee. She planned to check on her home later in the day.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report