CHELAN COUNTY, Wash. — The Chelan County Sheriff's Office said Friday that investigators determined the Red Apple Fire, which has scorched thousands of acres and threatened homes, was human-caused.
Deputies executed a search warrant at a home Wednesday believed to be the origin of the Red Apple Fire, which is burning between Wenatchee and Cashmere. However, the sheriff's office said Friday the fire originated from an adjacent property in Monitor, Wash.
Chelan County Fire Marshal Bob Plumb said earlier in the week the fire started in a woodpile that may have been there for a year. Plumb said he could find no evidence that anyone set off an illegal burn. As of Saturday morning, investigators still didn't know exactly how the fire started.
However, Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett previously said evidence could lead to charges of reckless burning.
The Red Apple fire started Tuesday evening and is burning grass, sage and timber off of Red Apple Road near US 2. As of Tuesday morning the fire burned an estimated 12,288 acres and was about 90% contained, according to InciWeb.
The fire threatened homes, orchards and a power substation. At one point more than 1,500 homes were under evacuation notifications, according to the Chelan County Sheriff's Office. So far, there have been no reports of homes damaged or injuries associated with the fire.
All evacuation orders except for an unpaved portion of Burch Mountain Road were removed before noon on Monday. The Chelan County Emergency Management posted the latest evacuation orders on its Facebook page. Chelan County Public Works also posted an emergency incident map to help residents stay up-to-date on the current evacuation levels.
The Red Cross opened a shelter at the Seventh Day Adventist Church located at 508 N Western Ave. in Wenatchee for anyone needing shelter due to the fire. The Red Cross said the shelter "will remain open as long as needed."
Chelan County declared a state of emergency due to the three-alarm brush fire. Commissioner Kevin Overbay signed the resolution last week, and Commissioners Bob Bugert and Tiffany Gering signed the formal resolution on July 19.
State firefighting resources have responded to assist local firefighting efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized federal funds to help with firefighting costs, according to a Thursday press release. This was the third Fire Management Assistance Grant declared to help fight wildfires in Washington so far this year.
Around 200 personnel are currently battling the fire, according to InciWeb. A team of “Type 1” firefighters from California who specialize in fighting large, complex wildfires arrived in the area last week.
Eyewitness accounts of Red Apple Fire
Wendy Bowman said she's been nervously watching the hillsides above her home as the flames creep closer.
"Right away, when we saw the fires we started to pack up stuff because if we get an ember on this dry land it's going up quick," said Bowman on Wednesday.
Maria Langer lives about 10 miles away from the fire in Malaga and said she could see the flames from her window early Wednesday morning.
“I happened to be up in the middle of the night and looked out the window and saw [the fire], and after that, there was no sleep,” Langer told KING 5.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) closed a four-mile stretch of US 97A just north of Wenatchee due to fire activity for most of the day Wednesday. The roadway fully reopened to traffic Thursday morning, but WSDOT said it may close again on short notice due to fire activity. WSDOT is asking drivers to “please use US 97 on the east side for Chelan-Wenatchee travel.”
Fire officials with Chelan County Fire District 6 asked people to stay out of the area Tuesday night as too much traffic on Easy Street and US 2 was making it difficult for firefighters to access the area.