Fire prompts road closure

Flames weaken trees along North Pine Creek Road

PINE CREEK — A wildlife raced through an aspen grove Monday afternoon, weakening trees and prompting officials to close North Pine Creek Road.

State Department of Natural Resources firefighters were called in to contain the blaze about two miles north of Fish Lake.

The road was initially closed near the 6.3-acre fire that roared to life about 2 p.m. But Okanogan County workers Les Hurlbert and Kirk Harrison officially posted road closed signs at intersections leading to the rural dirt road and fire area.

Natural Resources officials on-scene said the fire was caused by a local resident who had been burning weeds.

The resident, Steve Mapes, acknowledged that he had been burning weeds, adding that the wind whipped up and pushed the blaze quickly from his burn pile into the grove.

Mapes said he had burned off most of the dead weeds about three weeks ago, when there was still snow on the ground. So, he thought that he was OK to finish.

That’s when a wind gust caught him by surprise.

The wind fanned the flames, spreading the fire to a narrow stretch of dead grass moving uphill into the grove.

“I thought I’d be able to pinch it off,” he said. “But it got out of control. I guess I learned my lesson.”

Okanogan County officials said nobody was injured in the mishap and there wasn’t any structural damage reported.

The road will remain closed 24-48 hours while fire-damaged trees along the road are removed.

The blaze was contained by about 3 p.m., officials on-scene said.

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