Local News

Strike teams stretched thin at Apache Pass brushfire

CRESTON, Wash. - A dozen homes are on a Level 2 evacuation notice near Creston, where the Apache Pass fire has burned nearly 18,000 acres.

Winds on Tuesday were gusting at about 15 miles per hour, a far cry from Monday, when higher wind gusts blew the fire from 3,400 acres to 18,000 in short order. With those gusting winds it has made it very tricky for firefighters to get a handle on this blaze.

Just behind Ed Ladewig's home south of Creston stretch acres and acres of blackened earth.

"It was a solid wall of flame all the way along," Ladewig said.

Apache Pass fire

While it wasn't the first fire he's seen it was one of the bigger ones.

"It was a funny fire. It would run and then it would change directions," he said.

Stretched thin across the region fire fighters sent what they could to Ladewig's home.

"We were the only strike team that was available. When we got here it was kinda nerve wracking. It looked like we could hold it and then all the sudden the wind kicked up and we were off to the races. Not much we could do to it," strike team leader Jerry Lease said.

In some cases they could do nothing but watch.

"Twenty foot flame lengths in this kind of grass is amazing activity," Lease said.

About a dozen homes were put on Level 2 evacuation notice as the fire burned close to 20,000 acres. Helicopters were called in and worked to stop the head of the fire. Now, in addition to Lease's strike team two more are on the ground helping get the Apache Pass fire under control. Team leader Lease said they could use more boots on the ground.

"A fire this size should be six or eight at least," Lease said.

A bulldozer worked in tandem with air support trying to put a ring around the fire and with fewer crews on the ground every effort counted.

"Because we are so thin if something pops up we have to be really quick and get to it," Lease explained.

It definitely had Ed Ladewig counting his blessings.

"They're here all day and sure appreciate what they did. Saved our home," he said.

Fire officials say they don't anticipate raising the levels of evacuation, however they are telling home owners in the area to be aware of the situation.