Lake Wenatchee wildfire claims 4 homes; 35 percent contained

by: Frank Field Updated:

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LAKE WENATCHEE, Wash. - Firefighters have control over a wildfire at Lake Wenatchee that started Friday, but not before it scorched 40 acres. Four unoccupied homes were destroyed and several were damaged.

At about 6:30 p.m., dispatch received word about the fire at North Shore Drive. Helicopters dropped water on the blaze, and as of approximately 10:30 p.m. the fire was about 10 percent contained. 

Forty homes on Brown Road to the north end of North Shore Drive were under Level 3 evacuation. 

As of Saturday afternoon, officials said the wildfire is 35 percent contained.

Lake Wenatchee resident Gary Skinner lives across the lake from where the fire consumed vacation homes and cabins. It burned property that has been in his family for almost 75 years. 

He drove to the fire area Saturday morning to see what happened to the cabin on the property his aunt bought in 1937.  "A lot of memories related to this,” he said, surveying the damage to his neighbors’ cabins. 

The cabin on Skinner's family property survived the fire. But he didn't know that as he watched from across the lake as the fire spread Friday night. He has lived and played in this area since he was 2 years old. 

“I know all the properties up and down here. And could spot them thru the binoculars,” Skinner said. “I used to build rafts here and sail down the lake here on my own little raft,” he reminisced. 

Firefighters think the fire started at the base of a property on the northwestern shore, and then moved east along the shore. They say it was hard to fight because of the steep terrain and the winds that pushed it along.

“It started on the beach area and then took off onto the ground once it got going on the ground the winds got it and it took off into the trees,” said incident commander Kelly McDaniels from the Chelan County Fire District. 

It flattened three cabins and damaged another. There's no value estimate yet on the property loss. But Skinner's relieved a lifetime of priceless memories survived. 

"I'm glad the cabin is still there, that's all I can say,” Skinner said. 

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Mick Mueller said the four structures were summer homes permitted on Forest Service land, which were adjacent to the Wenatchee Ranger Station.

Mueller also said the fire is reported to have been caused by people, but it remains under investigation.

The public should avoid the area because of heavy fire traffic.