Home Fire News Evacuations underway as wildfire in Washington continues to burn, now up to...

Evacuations underway as wildfire in Washington continues to burn, now up to 20,000 acres

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Elise Takahama and Ryan Blethen
The Seattle Times

A wildfire burning in Grant County is threatening homes and farms near Mattawa. People in more than a dozen homes and businesses have been evacuated and local and state officials have told others living in the area to be ready to evacuate.

The blaze, which is being called the Powerline fire, began just after 12:30 p.m. Sunday. By Monday evening, the fire had spread to about 7,800 acres (about 12.2 square miles), said Nancy Jones, a spokeswoman for the Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team. The blaze is about 50% contained, Jones said.

“The weather this morning was overcast, the winds were calm and we did get some precipitation, and that has been really helpful for the crews out on the ground,” Jones said Monday evening. “Yesterday afternoon, it was very windy. The field was just dry grasses and brush. When you get those conditions, the fire just runs. It goes fast.”

Firefighters are struggling with a manure pile that has been particularly difficult to extinguish, Jones said.

“You’ve got this huge pile of compact materials that’s smoldering, and if you just put water on it … it wouldn’t penetrate it,” she said. “I’m not sure that’s something that’s ever been dealt with before.”

The Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post Sunday that the fire is burning sagebrush and grasslands on steep terrain with no safe access for firefighters. No homes or other structures have been lost, but people in 15 homes and business have been told to evacuate and others have been told to be ready to evacuate; the exact number of people affected is unknown, according to the post.

“If you are not a resident of that area or if you are not assisting a resident of that area, stay off the roads,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, a bureau of the Washington State Patrol.

The State Patrol has authorized four strike teams from the Fire Protection Bureau to help Grant County firefighters try to contain the blaze.

Mattawa is in Central Washington, near the Columbia River.

More than 20,000 acres of Grant County burned last month in the state’s first big wildfire of the year, the 243 fire. About 25 households were evacuated then, but no homes were lost.

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