Updated noon: A wildfire burning in the Colockum Pass area in Chelan County reached the northern border of Kittitas County on Sunday.
Smoke from the fire was visible in Ellensburg this morning and Sunday evening. The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office reported the blaze reached the Columbia River just north of Spanish Castle on Sunday, according to a sheriff's news release.
The fire, known as the Colockum Tarps Fire, started near the intersection of Colockum Road and Tarpiscan Road south of Malaga near Wenatchee at about 8 a.m. Saturday.
"It's a very dangerous and a very large fire," fire spokesman Rick Isaacson told the Wenatchee World on Sunday night. "It's moving too fast, there's too much wind and too much fast-burning fuel to get ahead of it," he added.
As of Monday morning, the fire was estimated at more than 20,000 acres, or 31 square miles. Evacuation notices were issued to 60 homes and cabins. A type 2 incident command team with more resources took over management of the fire this morning.
The fire is 5 percent contained, and 300 people are assigned to fighting it.
Wind farm and power lines
Puget Sound Energy crews were sent out early this morning to get a close-up look at the wildfire's movement in the Colockum Pass area where a main, high-voltage PSE power line carries electricity generated at Rocky Reach Dam into Kittitas County, said Brian Lenz, PSE's public affairs and governmental relations manager.
The fire wasn't close to power line infrastructure last night, but the utility plans to closely monitor the situation.
Lenz said smoke from the fire can be seen from PSE's Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility east of Ellensburg but is still quite a distance away.
Homes in area
The fire has touched the majority of property owners beyond the junction of Colockum Pass and Tarpiscan roads, resident Diane Graves told the Wenatchee World. She said fire burned across much of her property on Tarpiscan Road, though her house was safe.
Graves said she drove through the burned area this morning and personally saw the remnants of five occupied homes that were a total loss. She named off the residents of each lost house, and said one family was on vacation
The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office is urging people to avoid travel and recreation in the Colockum Pass area and the Tarpiscan, and is hoping to contact people camping in the area. Call the sheriff's office at 509-925-8534.
The following roads to the fire area are closed: Colockum, Parke Creek, Cooke Canyon, Coleman and Schnebly Canyon.
A level three notification (leave immediately) is in place at Colockum, Tarpiscan, Kingsbury and Ingersoll roads. A level 2 notification (be ready to leave within 30 minutes should the fire situation change) notification is in place in Upper Colockum Pass. A level 1 notification (be prepared to leave) is in place in the Lower Colockum to Parke Creek.
Firefighting efforts are focused on improving containment lines on the north and west perimeter of the fire and protecting structures. This afternoon winds are likely to push the fire upslope toward the west among heavier timber. In the later afternoon, winds are likely to push the fire downhill and south. Another priority today is to determine how far the fire has burned to the south and identify opportunities to prevent its further spread, according to the incident management team.