By Michelle McNiel / The Wenatchee World
MALAGA, Chelan County — A lightning strike to the top of a power pole is believed to have ignited a brush fire that burned 1,300 acres near Malaga on Wednesday.
A fire investigator ruled that the brush fire started near the base of a power pole carrying a 230-kilovolt line along the Malaga-Alcoa Highway, Chelan County Fire District 1 Mike Burnett said.
Chelan County PUD officials believe the pole hit was theirs.
“When fire crews first arrived, there was fire in the top of the pole but not fire at the base of the pole,” Burnett said.
The investigator believes the lightning strike caused the wooden pole to explode, sending burning splinters to the ground in an arc pattern. Multiple fire ignition points were found under the pole, Burnett said. With winds blowing between 20 and 30 mph, the fire quickly took off in dry grass and brush.
No other lightning strikes were recorded in the immediate area. However, the chief said some were recorded just across the county line in Kittitas County.
This morning the fire was considered to be 90 percent contained, and Chelan County fire crews were monitoring it 24 hours a day. Some interior areas of the burned acreage had been sending up smoke, and a helicopter dropped water on them Thursday.
“There is some wind on the fire this morning, so it should be testing our lines a little bit,” Burnett said. “We’re going to be keeping an eye on the interior smokes to make sure if they do flare up there is no fire spread.”
About 40 homes are still under a low-level evacuation advisory.
The fire was reported around 4:20 p.m. Wednesday and grew quickly in gusty winds. A second and third alarm summoned firefighters from throughout Chelan, Douglas and Grant counties.
Burnett said the vast majority of the emergency crews working on the fire — about 100 people — were volunteers. The rural fire districts, Chelan County Sheriff’s Office and Apple Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross all had volunteers at the fire scene.
“I just can’t say enough about how much we appreciate the work they do,” he said.