Washington wildfire victim: 'It's just surreal, sad'

Story highlights

  • "There was a fireball behind my neighbor's house," a man says, describing the fierce blaze
  • The fire has destroyed 29 residences and damaged four businesses, fire officials say
  • Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz: "We're worried now about what's going to happen next"

Wenatchee, Washington (CNN)About all that's left of the Newberry family's belongings is some pictures and a computer tower.

Their home is gone. There is only rubble left.
"It's just surreal, sad," Keith Newberry said Tuesday after a fast-moving wall of flames gutted his home in Wenatchee, Washington.
    The 44-year-old road foreman for the county public works department became emotional when thinking about his youngest daughter, one of his three children.
    "She doesn't even have a swimsuit," he said.
    Diane Reed's neighborhood now "looks like a war zone," she told CNN affiliate KOMO, shaking her head and blinking back tears. When she returned after a weekend away, she didn't recognize the remnants of her own home -- now a lot filled with charred debris -- until she saw two large flower pots that were still sitting on the front steps.
    "I never thought I would come home to nothing. ... Just to basically sit back and think, I don't even have a fork or a plate or clothing, just your basic things we all take for granted," she said. "It's just gone."
    The fire in central Washington state has charred about 3,000 acres and devoured 29 homes. It was just 47% contained as of Tuesday afternoon, officials said. Three firefighters have been injured since the blaze began Sunday.
    The fire also has damaged four businesses, officials said Tuesday at a news conference. About 4,000 homes remain under a Level 1 evacuation order, meaning residents should leave or be ready to leave at a moment's notice.
    The weather forecast offers no help. Temperatures are expected to break 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day for the rest of the week, and each day's forecast predicts prevalent sunshine.
    With the well-above-average tempertures, the fire shows no signs of slowing, Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz said.
    "We're worried now about what's going to happen next," Kuntz said, noting that hundreds of firefighters were working to battle the blaze.
    Kit Cammack said firefighters picked through the rubble to help her 86-year-old grandparents salvage photos after the home where they'd lived since 1972 was destroyed in the fire. She posted a photo on Instagram showing her grandfather staring in disbelief at his burned-up truck.
    "The first thing they asked was if they had to move, or if they could stay here and rebuild," she said. "We told them they could rebuild and move back in."
    The fire began Sunday afternoon outside Wenatchee, but was burning within the city limits late Sunday night, Rich Magnussen of the Chelan County Sheriff's Office said.
    Officials are referring to it as the Sleepy Hollow Fire because the blaze started on Sleepy Hollow Road.


    A photo posted by Brad Wagner (@bobberdownguide) on

    "It was intense, large embers blowing everywhere, roofs catching on fire, vegetation around the house, just spreading from house to house, and the firefighters were doing everything they could to keep it contained to the structures that were involved, and keep it away from the uninvolved structures," Mike Burnett, Chelan County fire chief, told reporters.
    Police warned residents to evacuate. But the flames came faster than anyone expected, Jon Dominguez told CNN's "AC360." Black smoke billowed up as the fire devoured everything in its path.
    "My wife came through the house, kind of screaming at me to get out. ... By the time, I pulled the car out of our garage, there was a fireball behind my neighbor's house," he said.
    The cause of the fire was unknown, but temperatures in the region have topped 100 degrees for days, and rainfall has been scarce.
    The Sleepy Hollow Fire is one of four active wildfires in Washington, according to InciWeb, which is an interagency incident reporting website.

    One pic of the girls watching the fire. #sleepyhollowfire #wenatchee #wenatcheefire #visitwenatchee #ncwlove

    A photo posted by Brad Wagner (@bobberdownguide) on