Five fires in the Wenatchee National Forest burn 122,000 acres beginning on August 23, 1970.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/01/2003
  • Essay 5498

On August 23, 1970, lightning ignites fires in the Wenatchee National Forest that consume 122,000 acres. The fires, called the Entiat Burn, will burn for 15 days before they are contained and rain begins to put them out.

A lightning storm started more than 200 fires beginning August 23. These merged into five fires named Gold Ridge, Entiat, Mitchell Creek, Shady Pass, and Slide Ridge. The U.S. Forest Service used 8,500 firefighters to contain the fires within fire lines. The town of Ardenvoir was threatened for a time. Fighting the fire cost $13 million.

Biologists found evidence in tree growth rings of a large fire about 1830 and one about 1790. Aggressive fire suppression and prevention programs resulted in a buildup of underbrush and smaller trees that might have been reduced had natural fires run their course. One farmer remarked, "Everything was just dead. No trees. No birds. No fish ... Nothing. I didn't want to come back" (The Seattle Times, November 9, 1980).

Beginning in 1971, the Forest Service began a program of reforestation of the burned area.


Paul Hart, "The Big Wenatchee Burn," The Seattle Times, November 9, 1980, Pacific Magazine,, pp. 8-11; Marty Loken, "In Ashes of Entiat, A Sifting of Hope," Ibid., September 6, 1970, p. A-1; "Forest Fires Under Control; Crews Being Sent Home," Ibid., September 14, 1970, p. F-5.

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