Fire came floating out of the sky into Wenatchee.
“Some of the embers we gathered and posted on social media, I mean, they're the size of a loaf of bread or bigger,” Wenatchee World editor Cal FitzSimmons told KUOW’s Marcie Sillman, describing the scene this week as a wildfire roared down from the northwest.
The Sleepy Hollow fire began near Monitor late Sunday, then destroyed dozens of homes on a hillside above the center of Wenatchee on Monday. Several commercial buildings also burned.
“It was very disturbing,” he said. “This is not a town that is unfamiliar with fires, but there is a sense in Wenatchee that you are surrounded by fire,which is a very uneasy feeling.”
FitzSimmons first saw the fire as he was driving back into town from Tacoma on Sunday. “It was moving across the hillside and that fire was not moving incredibly fast,but as someone who's covered fires for many years I knew that that probably wasn't going to be contained and it was going to get into Wenatchee.”
The 2013 Colockum Tarps Fire burned more than 80,000 acres south of Wenatchee. But FitzSimmons said this was different.
“This time there were flying embers that set other areas of town on fire, and we had 30 homes now burn right here in Wenatchee,” he said.
The people on FitzSimmons’ newspaper staff wound up covering a story that directly affected them.
“One of our reporters lost her home. An intern reporter here, his father lost his home,” he said.
By Tuesday afternoon, the fire had burned about 3,000 acres and was 10 percent contained, according to the InciWeb wildfire information website. Temperatures above 100 degrees are expected through the end of the week.
The cause has not been determined. FitzSimmons said the city is considering a fireworks ban. “I think it's common sense that people lighting things off under these conditions should not be allowed.”
The east side of the Cascades is a vacation destination for a lot of people from Seattle over long holidays such as the Fourth of July, and FitzSimmons said that shouldn't change.
“We're not a city that's on fire right now,” he said. “It's still a beautiful place to visit.”