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Fire forces evacuations in Chelan County

The Spromberg Fire has prompted level 3 evacuation orders for more than 160 homes in Chelan County. (Photo: KOMO News)
The Spromberg Fire has prompted level 3 evacuation orders for more than 160 homes in Chelan County. (Photo: KOMO News)
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LEAVENWORTH, Wash. -- People living in at least 168 homes were told to evacuate Tuesday afternoon as a fire raged in Chelan County north of Leavenworth.

The Spromberg Canyon Fire started in a log yard and quickly spread, prompting a level 3 evacuation in the Sunitsch Canyon to Eagle Creek and all of the Spromberg Canyon areas. A level 3 evacuation tells people to leave immediately.

So far, about 40-60 acres have been burned. The Red Cross is setting up a shelter in Leavenworth.

"It's a good reminder for folks to remain prepared, to have an emergency kit on hand, to have their important papers, photographs, prescriptions, all of that ready to go so that they can leave when asked by emergency management," said Annie Schmidt from Chelan County Fire District 3. "Just because it's not August, it doesn't mean we can't have a wildfire here."

About 200 firefighters are on scene including crews from Chelan County Fire Districts 1, 3, 6, and 9 as well as the U.S. Forest Service and State Department of Natural Resources. Firefighters from Snohomish County, Kitsap County and Canada are also helping out.

Three helicopters are also attacking the fire from the air.

The fire has closed Chumstick Highway north of Leavenworth at Eagle Creek and Sunitsch Canyon. But, officials said Highway 2 is still open and downtown Leavenworth is not affected by the fire.

Ross Frank, owner of Red-Tail Canyon Farm, said the fire was burning about a quarter mile from his farm with draft horses and forest where weddings, barbeques and sleigh rides are held.

"It's our whole livelihood," Frank said. "Everything we do is right here on the ranch."

He was told to evacuate but stayed home because he is also a firefighter and spent 19 hours helping at the blaze site.

He said he plans to stay and prepare his animals to leave if the winds shift the fire's path toward his property or if sparks start fires closer to his ranch.

"The wind has been gusting and swirling so much it's hard to tell where it's coming from, especially in canyon-country," he said. "I'm optimistic, but the wind will be the deciding factor."

It's not known yet what sparked the fire, which somehow started in a stack of logs at an old mill and then spread to nearby timber and brush.

"Anytime you have a fire you're looking at fuel, you're looking at weather, and you're looking at topography. This is a lot of fuel. There's a lot of energy here, there's a lot of heat here," said Schmidt.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has also temporarily stopped trains in that area. A train equipped with special water tankers has been brought in because there are no hydrants and water is scarce in that area.

"It takes a surprising amount of water to get your campfire dead and cool to the touch; it's going to take a fair amount of time and a surprising amount of water to get this cooled down," said Schmidt.

Crews experienced wind gusts to 40 mph Tuesday evening. Winds calmed a bit Wednesday but were still expected to remain breezy through the day.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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