Local firefighters deploy to Central Washington wildfire



Updated: August 1, 2013, 9:02 PM


Wash. residents can track fires online

YAKIMA — Washington residents can keep track of fire and smoke activity in their area with the Washington Smoke Information blog.

The state Department of Ecology, U.S. Forest Service, state Department of Health and other state, federal and county governments post up-to-date information on smoke effects, smoke movement forecasts and other related information directly to the site. To visit the blog, go to www.wasmoke.blogspot.com.

— Columbia Basin Herald

Local firefighters are battling an 80,000-acre wildfire burning in Central Washington.

The fast-moving Colockum Tarps Fire was 30 percent contained Thursday, but it has burned across nearly 125 square miles of dry grass, sagebrush and light timber and destroyed three homes and several outbuildings.

Six Camas-Washougal firefighters and five firefighters with East County Fire & Rescue were deployed against it Wednesday. The crew of firefighters from East County was deployed to replace four local firefighters that battled the blaze for four days before returning to the area Tuesday.

Larch Corrections Center on Sunday sent 63 offenders to battle the blaze. Inmates are trained by the Department of Natural Resources to fight wildfires across the state through a partnership that dates back several decades.

The crews join about 830 firefighters working to control the Colockum Tarps Fire, which originated south of Wenatchee. Residents of about 100 scattered homes and cabins in Kittitas County were ordered to evacuate Wednesday, and they remained out of their homes Thursday, fire officials said.

Adding to the pressure: The region was under red-flag warnings for thunderstorm activity through Thursday, with the potential for dry lightning and erratic winds. Hundreds of lightning strikes sparked dozens of new fires across the region, National Weather Service meteorologist Ty Judd said. The storms also brought much-needed rain to some areas, and the agency issued flash-flood watches and warnings for several counties, Judd said.

The state reimburses the local fire agencies for firefighter wages and also pays for any overtime that the agencies may accrue while covering their own districts.

Goldendale wildfire

Area crews are also fighting the Mile Market 28 fire north of Goldendale, which started on July 24 and now covers 42 square miles near Satus Pass.

Clark County Fire & Rescue has two fire officials still working on the blaze, which was 65 percent contained Thursday. Seven firefighters returned on July 30 from a four-day stint. Clark County Fire District 3 had three firefighters working on the wildfire during the same period: July 26 to 30.

The fire forced the closure of U.S. Highway 97 for days.

The highway reopened Wednesday, though travel delays of up to one hour should be expected, with pilot cars leading vehicles through the fire area.