varden

The Varden Fire, as seen from Highway 20. The state Department of Transportation said there are no forest or local roads around the highway closure.

(Updated) MAZAMA – A Level 2 (be ready to go) evacuation warning was issued this morning, July 14, for the Mazama area because of fire movement from the Cedar Creek and Varden fires.

The alert from Okanogan County Emergency Management covers the area south of the Methow River and west of Lost River Road. People are asked to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice, be aware of their surroundings and not wait for door-to-door notification.

A Level 1 (be aware) notice remains in effect for the area north of the Methow River, up Lost River and east of Lost River Road to the intersection of Goat Creek Road and Highway 20.

The North Cascades Highway remains closed from milepost 170 to milepost 177, approximately 20 miles west of Winthrop between Silver Star and Early Winters.

A red flag warning is in place for much of central and eastern Washington because of hot and dry winds expected this afternoon and again Thursday afternoon. Southwest winds of 10-15 mph are expected, with gusts of 25-35 mph. Relative humidity of 7-14 percent is anticipated today and 14-19 percent on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Cedar Creek and Varden fires burned actively throughout Tuesday, and the two fires are expected to merge today, July 14, said the U.S. Forest Service. An infrared flight Tuesday night estimated the Varden Fire at 1,710 acres and Cedar Creek at 182 acres.

The Varden Fire has burned down to within a quarter mile of Highway 20. Firefighters prepared the south side of the route from the snow gate at Silver Star on the west end to the Early Winters Campground as a containment line by reducing fuels.

Heavy equipment will be used to continue to deepen and treat fuels from the roadway, the Forest Service said.

Meanwhile, the nearby Delancy Fire was attacked initially by smokejumpers and helicopter rappelers. The fire continued to burn and move slightly to the northeast on Tuesday, the Forest Service said.

Firefighters were pulled from the fire because of concern for safety with a cold front expected to move through the area today.

Yesterday, air resources dropped water all afternoon to slow the fire, which has settled in a rocky area. Delancy is estimated at 17 acres.

Another blaze, the Barnaby Fire, burned Tuesday afternoon and evening in the Twin Lakes area near Winthrop. It was 100 percent surrounded by late evening, with crews mopping up.

Details of that fire are sketchy, but it was described by Okanogan County Fire District No. 6 as a structure and wildland fire.

The Forest Service said mutual aid was provided Tuesday evening on the Barnaby Fire by providing with a hotshot and type 2-IA hand crews, five engines, air attack, one heavy lift and one-medium lift helicopters to drop water and keep the fire at 1.6 acres.

Okanogan County Emergency Management issued a Level 3 (get out now) evacuation alert for the area at 6:22 p.m. Tuesday.

The U.S. Forest Service said the Methow Valley was blanketed in smoke much of the day, limiting use of aerial resources. Heavy lift helicopters flew in the late afternoon and provided assistance to firefighters with water bucket drops.

Smoke also clouded skies in the Okanogan Valley.

Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8, commanded by Kevin Stock, has assumed management of the Cedar Creek, Varden and Delancy fires. The incident command post is at the Blues Ranch just outside Winthrop.

An estimated 314 are fighting the fires.

Apublic meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 15, at the Mazama Store courtyard. The fire managers will provide updates on the fires and an opportunity for the public to ask questions.

A temporary flight restriction has been placed over the area. Pilots are asked to consult the “Notice to Airman” for specifics. Wildfire areas also are a “No Drone Zone,” said the Forest Service.

The Early Winters and Klipchuck campgrounds are closed. The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is in the process of developing a forest area closure.

Campfires are prohibited throughout the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, including developed campgrounds and congressionally designated wilderness areas.

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