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News / Northwest

40+ mph gusts fuel several Tri-Cities fires, threatening schools and homes, closing roads

By Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald
Published: June 12, 2024, 7:41am

KENNEWICK — High winds fueled several fires across the Tri-Cities on Tuesday afternoon and evening, threatening homes and schools, closing roads and forcing evacuations.

Tri-Cities firefighters battled blazes along Interstates 82 and 182 in Finley and Benton City. The flames were stoked by 30 mph winds, with some gusts up to 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Initial reports say at least four people were hurt. Two suffered smoke inhalation, one was injured in a Prosser crash and the condition of another man in Benton City was still being evaluated.

The cause of most of the fires had not been determined.

The first fire broke out about 1 p.m. near the intersection of East 59th Avenue and Dunham Road, close to River View High when people reported seeing a structure, some cars and a fence on fire.

When firefighters arrived, they discovered a building and 10 cars burning, Benton County Fire District 1 said in a Facebook post.

Wind spread burning embers to nearby areas, sparking several other fires. Benton County sheriff’s deputies knocked on the doors of about 10 homes to evacuate anyone inside.

The high school and nearby elementary were notified and students were kept inside.

Fire district officials reported that two adults who tried fighting the fire with garden hoses suffered from some smoke inhalation.

Crews were called to a second blaze near the Interstate 82 exit at Badger Road about 1:50 p.m.

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Witnesses reported the brush fire jumped the road and was possibly threatening an apartment complex, but they were able to stop the flames before they reached the area.

Benton County firefighters were able to stop the blaze before it reached the apartment building. They were helped by a 10-foot patch of gravel that served as a firebreak. Both of those fires were contained by 3 p.m.

Pasco fire

Two new fires broke out about 4 p.m.

Pasco firefighters were called out to the intersection of Road 68 and Interstate 182 after a fire started in the cloverleaf exit. Wind blew flames across the road and into dry grass and sagebrush along the south side of the highway.

The fire approached Wilco Farm Store and a storage facility, but their brick construction kept the fire at bay.

Smoke made for poor visibility for drivers on roads south of Interstate 182 and on the highway.

Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control by 6 p.m.

Yakima Valley

Another fire started in Benton City on the 700 block of 13th Street about 4:10 p.m.

It was initially reported to involve a home, but there were later reports that it was just a brush fire. A picture posted by the sheriff’s office showed a swath of brush, grass and some farm land was scorched.

Firefighters also were called to a 4-acre wild fire on King Tull Road in Prosser just before 5:30 p.m.

There was a report that a car went off the road and crashed. The driver was taken by ambulance to an airplane to be flown to a hospital. The person’s condition was not immediately known.

Homes were threatened, but there are no reports of any being damaged. The fire was brought under control shortly after 6 p.m., according to initial dispatch reports.