Tourists flee as wildfire threatens homes

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CHELAN, Wash. — Many tourists have fled this scenic lakeside town in the Cascade Mountain range that counts on money from summer visitors after wildfires burned dozens of homes and continued to threaten many more.

Several large fires burning near the town of Chelan have scorched more than 155 square miles and destroyed an estimated 75 homes and businesses, officials said. Scores of homes remain threatened, and mandatory evacuation orders remained in effect for more than 2,900 people in the area.

Mike Steele, director of the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, said it’s too early to determine the economic impact of the lost tourist dollars, but he said it would be “significant.”

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“We’re working hard to get our feet back on the ground,” Steele said, noting that many of the people who would serve tourists have either had to leave or lost homes.

The Chelan fires were just some of the many destructive blazes burning throughout the Northwest. In northern Idaho, more than 40 homes were lost near the town of Kamiah, and in Oregon a lightning-sparked blaze on the Malheur National Forest has grown to more than 60 square miles and has destroyed at least 26 homes.