UPDATED AT 4 p.m., AUG. 1, 2014
By Don Nelson
A wildfire that broke out at around 2 p.m. in the Signal Hill area is raging on the west side of Highway 20 between Twisp and Winthrop, moving rapidly in a generally northerly direction toward the Liberty Bell High School area and the Twin Lakes development area.
Conditions were changing rapidly as the fire advanced in the general direction of Winthrop. Firefighters were cordoning off several roads in the area around the fire. Some areas may be under evacuation notices, but we haven’t been able to confirm those reports.
At about 3:40 p.m., State Highway 20 eastbound was closed at the Evergreen IGA in Winthrop, according to first responder scanner reports.
An eyewitness watching the fire from across the valley estimated that the fire line was about four miles long at around 3 p.m. He said he had seen at least one house burn.
The state highway was closed to through traffic at each end of Old Twisp Highway, which parallels Highway 20, earlier in the afternoon. Traffic was being allowed on Old Twisp Highway earlier, but the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office was encouraging people to leave the area. National Guard units were also moving into the area.
At about 3:15 p.m., Twin Lakes Road was to be barricaded between Wolf Creek Road and Elbow Coulee Road, according to first responder scanner reports.
Multiple firefighting units were dispatched to the area and at least three helicopters were dumping water on the fire from the nearby Methow River.
An alternative route between Twisp and Winthrop is the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside County Road. According to scanner reports, motorists who have pulled off the road to watch the fire are impeding traffic. Law enforcement officials are asking drivers not to stop.