EAST WENATCHEE -- One of last summer’s major regional brush fires occurred on the eastern perimeter of East Wenatchee in early September.
The three-alarm Crystal Fire consumed over 2,600 acres before it was snuffed out by firefighters from multiple responding agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as part of a state mobilization effort which brought in extra personnel and apparatus, as well as multiple levels of air support.
Now, nearly five months after the blaze burned dangerously close to scores of homes and blackened large swaths of the nearby hillsides, DNR has released its official conclusion as to the cause of that large wildland fire and are blaming it on what they categorize as “Equipment Use in Vegetation.”
That “equipment” has been specifically identified as one 1997 Jeep Wrangler, which Douglas County Fire District 2 Chief Dave Baker advised was being driven off-road in an area of dry and heavily overgrown grasses and sagebrush on the day the fire broke out.
Investigators say the jeep became stuck in the tinder-like conditions and that heat from its exhaust system provided what became the initial spark of the large-scale wildfire.
The cost of putting out the Crystal Fire is in the millions of dollars but officials with DNR say it is unknown if any charges will be filed against the vehicle’s owner or operator, further indicating that issue would be “handled by the appropriate jurisdiction.”