Washington Sleepy Hollow fire: firefighters gaining control of flames

On day three, firefighters think they are closer to containing the wildfire that has swept through central Washington

Elaine Thompson/AP
Firefighters Kelly Willman (l.) and Jessie Salazar work to put out still smoldering hot spots from a wildfire two days earlier, Tuesday, in Wenatchee, Wash. Two dozen homes were destroyed in a fast-moving wildfire Sunday night in this central Washington city about 120 miles east of Seattle. A handful of businesses also were destroyed when flames spread to the downtown core.

Firefighters in central Washington state believe they have control of one of the biggest wildfires in the country this summer.

The fast-moving blaze – known as the Sleepy Hollow fire – has burned more than four square miles in almost three days, leading to thousands of evacuations in the area around Wenatchee, a city about 120 miles east of Seattle. Two dozen homes west of the city had burned down, along with a few businesses in the downtown area, according to the Associated Press.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries, according to reports, but there were no reports of injuries to residents.

The wildfire struck as Washington was grappling with a severe drought. About one-fifth of the state’s rivers and streams are at record low levels, the AP reports. 

Janet Pearce, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Natural Resources, told Reuters that the cause of the fire has not been determined, but that it followed a large number of lightning strikes in the region.

Ms. Pearce said that the fire “blew up” late on Sunday as hot, dry winds fanned the flames through drought-parched vegetation. Temperatures reached 108 degrees that day. The blaze grew from 200 acres at about 6 p.m. to 15 times that size overnight.

Rainfall on Monday helped calm the flames, but as of Tuesday morning the fire was only about 10 percent contained. Firefighters say they have made significant headway on Wednesday, and expect that percentage to jump dramatically later in the day.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to continue through the week, however, and the AP reports that residents of about 4,000 homes in the Wenatchee area are under orders to be prepared to evacuate immediately.

Washington experienced its worst wildfire season on record last year with fires burning 250,000 acres, according to Reuters. The state has seen more than 300 wildfires this year. Dozens of large wildfires have struck the western U.S. this year; and more than 60 have hit Alaska alone, burning 650,000 acres.

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