Fatal plane crash leaves one dead, sparks fires

Fire can be seen from the Oroville-Chesaw Road as flames crest a hill burning in dry grasses and sage Thursday. Gary DeVon/staff photos
Fire can be seen from the Oroville-Chesaw Road as flames crest a hill burning in dry grasses and sage Thursday. Gary DeVon/staff photos

Several fires burning off Oroville-Chesaw Road, Nine Mile Ranch area

OKANOGAN – The Okanogan County Sheriff’s office, along with fire personnel responded to a small plane crash as well as several fires in the highlands above Oroville. Deputies confirmed there was plane wreckage at the scene near where one of the fires and at least one person is confirmed dead.

“We have several units in the area and at the scene attempting to determine exactly what has happen. We currently have no other information on the aircraft at this time or any other reports of deaths or injuries,” said Sheriff Frank Rogers.

The site of the airplane crash is on Rise Road off of the Chesaw Road, said Sheriff Rogers in a news release at 2:29 p.m. Thursday.

As many as five fires had been reported in the Nine Mile, Circle Road and Havillah Road areas. Early reports were that some of the fires were man-made, but the sheriff’s office has not confirmed that at this time while the cause is still under investigation.

Officials have closed about an eight-mile stretch of the Oroville-Chesaw Road because of several wildfires burning in the area, about five miles east of Oroville.

“There are several fires in the Oroville-Chesaw area,” said Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall.

State Department of Natural Resources and local firefighters responded to the five reported fires which were spread out over a wide area, according to Goodall.

In addition to state DNR crews and local firefighters, there were three planes and one helicopter dropping water and retardant on the spreading fires and bulldozers were being used to try and draw fire lines. Electricity was de-energized by Okanogan County PUD crews.

Several houses could be seen seemingly unscathed by Thursday's fire at the top of the Nine Mile Ranch development. As of Thursday evening there had been no official reports about how many acres had burned and whether homes and structures had been lost.
Several houses could be seen seemingly unscathed by Thursday’s fire at the top of the Nine Mile Ranch development. As of Thursday evening there had been no official reports about how many acres had burned and whether homes and structures had been lost.

Several residents in the Nine Mile Ranch and along the Chesaw-Oroville Road were working to gather animals and possessions from their homes as the fire spread rapidly. Many acres of scrub grass and sagebrush were blacked on the top of the Nine Mile Ranch development. Pines and telephone poles could be seen burning in many areas, however several homes were left undisturbed as of 6 p.m., with fire having burnt all around them. After sunset flames could still be seen on the hillside from Oroville as trees crowned.

The Okanogan County Alert System was activated at 2:30 p.m. advising that the fires were about five miles east of Oroville. The alert asked people to be aware of their surroundings and to stay clear of the Oroville Chesaw Road. The system was again activated shortly after 3 p.m. with an advisory recommending immediate evacuation of the Nine Mile and Circle Road Areas.

A Red Cross shelter for Nine Mile Fire evacuees was scheduled to open at Oroville Elementary School, while the high school was being used for a fire camp for fire personnel.

An aggressive wildfire was also burning across the border British Columbia in the Rock Creek area. The fire had burned more than 1800 acres and forced the evacuation of 208 homes on Thursday afternoon.

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