Photo by Roger Harnack
A water tender douses flames at the Gebbers Farms-owned lumber yard in the remote Chiliwist valley as a log pile continues to burn in the foreground.
As of Tuesday, June 16, 2015
CHILIWIST A lumber yard is burning tonight near the road the company's owners had requested Okanogan County vacate.
The lumber yard, owned by the Gebbers family through it's subsidiary Gebbers Farms, has been burning for more than four hours.
Ironically, the lumber yard is less than a mile from the intersection of North Star and Three Devils roads, just off Chiliwist Road.
The Gebbers family-owned Gamble Land and Timber company sought vacation of a three-mile stretch of Three Devils Road, but neighbors challenged the request, noting the road provides an escape route during wildfires on the east side of the valley.
Last July, the Carlton Complex wildfire swept through the valley from the west, destroying numerous homes, outbuildings and fences, and killing millions of dollars worth of cattle.
While the lumber yard fire is under control and contained, early gusty winds pushed the flames toward Chiliwist Road, prompting some neighbors to gather at a home near the Three Devils-Chiliwist intersection.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire. But neighbors said equipment caught fire while chipping wood.
The flames then spread to several piles of logs and a chip pile, filling remote valley between Brewster and Malott with smoke.
From Chiliwist road, at least three company-owned Catepillars and three skidders could be seen working the fire, in addition to several water tankers.
Volunteer firefighters stood by watering down dry grass and sage near Chiliwist Road and area homes.
Officials have yet to say how much the burning timber was worth.
The fire comes on the heals of Gebbers' request for Okanogan County to vacate the dirt road.
Hearings Examiner Dan Beardslee recommended the county keep the road open and public, but commissioners voted, 2-1, June 3 to vacate it.
Commissioners Sheilah Kennedy and Ray Campbell favored vacation; Jim DeTro opposed it.
Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Chris Culp, however, issued writ prohibiting vacation pending a June 26 hearing.
Attorney Barnett N. Kalikow has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Coalition of Chiliwist Residents and Friends to keep the road open.
Gamble Land and Timber now owns the property on both sides of the stretch of road where the vacation is sought.
Three Devils Road connects to other roads dirt roads in the area, as well as public lands managed by Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the state Department of Natural Resources.