Residents Return to Central Wash. Homes After Monthlong Wildfire Evacuation Order

Wednesday, September 12th 2007, 10:33 pm
By: News On 6

HOLDEN VILLAGE, Wash. (AP) _ Residents of a religious retreat in the mountains of central Washington were allowed to return home Wednesday, about a month after wildfires forced them out.

Two fires have burned nearly 18 square miles of heavy forest west of Lake Chelan in the Cascade Range. They were 35 percent contained Wednesday.

The blazes had forced residents in Lucerne, on the shore of Lake Chelan, and the Holden Village Christian retreat to flee Aug. 14. Authorities had been concerned the fires could burn across the only road in and out of the area.

About 40 year-round residents at Holden Village remained to maintain the retreat, but most people left.

Lucerne residents returned home Friday, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Robin DeMario. Administrative staff, teachers and students at the retreat were allowed to return beginning Wednesday but remain on notice they might have to leave again if the fires grow.

In Southern California, a wind-driven fire ate through 1,000 acres of heavy vegetation Wednesday in a remote, mountainous area east of San Diego and had the potential to threaten two tiny villages, officials said.

No evacuations were ordered, but one firefighter suffered injuries not considered life-threatening, authorities said.

Earlier in the day, crews in neighboring Riverside County contained a 430-acre wildfire caused Monday by sparks from the undercarriage of a speeding stolen car, officials said. Parts of a nature preserve burned, but no buildings were involved.

Witnesses reported seeing three young men flee after the car crashed into a rock. No arrests had been made by early Wednesday.