Wildfire threatens homes near Ellensburg



GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The spread of a major wildfire in the Siskiyou Mountains along the Oregon-California border has slowed with cooling temperatures, giving firefighters a chance to build containment lines. But more lightning is predicted, and it could start more fires.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland reports the Oregon Gulch fire 15 miles east of Ashland was 20 percent contained on Monday at 72 square miles — 57 of them in Oregon in Jackson and Klamath counties.

Spokesman Tom Knappenberger says after two straight days of major runs, the fire burned only about 7 square miles on Sunday.

Thunderstorms are expected Monday night and Tuesday morning, followed by calmer weather until the weekend.

The Oregon Gulch fire burned six scattered rural homes last week and still threatens 270 more.

ELLENSBURG — A lightning-sparked wildfire has burned about a dozen structures in Kittitas County and threatened dozens of homes about 10 miles north of Ellensburg, fire officials said Monday.

The Kittitas County sheriff’s office has issued an evacuation notice for about 80 homes in the area. Other residents have been told to be ready to leave, said Jill Beedle, a spokeswoman for the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center.

The Snag Canyon Fire that started late Saturday scorched nearly 3 square miles of grass, brush and timber as a weekend thunderstorm whipped up winds and flames, said Sarah Foster, a spokeswoman for fire managers.

“It’s active, it’s evolving. It’s definitely causing some problems,” she said, noting that the fire was not contained as of Monday morning.

But, with the help of light wind conditions, about 200 firefighters working the blaze have been able to hold the fire steady, Foster said.

It’s unknown if the structures that burned were full-time residences, summer cabins or outbuildings. There have been no reports of injuries.

The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the Mercer Creek Church in Ellensburg, and some animals are being housed at an emergency shelter set up at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds, Beedle said.

State officials have also closed the western half of Naneum Ridge State Forest to keep campers and hikers safe.

In north-central Washington, about 1,800 people were battling the state’s largest wildfire, which has destroyed about 470 structures since it started July 14.

The Carlton Complex of fires, which has scorched nearly 400 square miles, was mostly contained, fire spokesman Steve Till said Monday morning. Firefighters have built a line around a nearby fire that started Friday between Twisp and Winthrop and burned a handful of homes, though it’s not fully contained, Till said.