GOLDENDALE, Wash. — Three large wildfires burned across Washington state Monday, setting more than 20,000 acres ablaze and threatening homes, animals and the livelihoods of thousands.
The Mile Marker 28 Fire northeast of Goldendale, Wash. along Highway 97 is the largest fire burning in the state. Officials said the fire had burned more than 17,000 acres Sunday night, closing portions of Highway 97 between Goldendale and Toppenish. A majority of the fire was burning through logging slash and brush along the eastern flank of the fire, and Level 2 evacuation notices were ordered for homes and residents eight miles west of Bickelton at 4 p.m. Sunday.
While the fire was large, more than 28 fire crews, 5 helicopters, 92 engines and 1,000 personnel managed to fight the blaze down to 25 percent containment. Officials said more moderate temperatures and calmer winds would ease the blaze.
However, firefighters are fighting to contain a large wildfire southeast of Wenatchee, Wash that sparked early Saturday morning. The Colockum Fire started as a small brush fire in the 7100 block of Colockum Road near Malga, Wash., but wind and dry conditions quickly caused the fire to spread into a 1,000-acre blaze. Level 3 evacuation notices were issued for about 60 residents near the fire, and three homes and a number of outbuildings were lost due to the fire Sunday, officials said. Two minor injuries were also reported.
As of 4 p.m. Sunday, the fire had grown to between 7,000 and 10,000 acres, and officials did not believe much — if any — of the blaze was contained. At least 240 fire personnel were on the scene, officials said, and homeowners like Carla Boatman said the fire was “a real threat,” to the home they hold dear.
“I’m worried,” Boatman said, I’m scared. I mean that’s really close to our house. I just hope everything is OK.”
Firefighters struggled with easterly wind gusts Sunday, causing the fire to slide toward dry sage brush and grass. The cause of the fire Colockum fire was still under investigation Monday.
A third, smaller fire burned on the west side of the Cascades Monday, sending smoke into the normal tranquil North Bend community. The fire, called the 444th Fire, burned nearly 18 acres over the weekend east of North Bend and sent nearly 80 firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources and Eastside Fire and Rescue into action. The fire, burning at the rocky base of the popular Mt. Si hiking area, closed a number of hiking trails.
Officials said the fire was human caused and was was largely contained late Sunday night, with officials predicting at least 50 percent of the fire to be under control.
However, officials warned that fires like the 444th Fire could become a larger problem, as dry conditions exist on both sides of the state.
A number of outdoor burn bans were in affect around Washington state in an effort to curb wildfires. King, Pierce and Kitsap Counties were the last area counties to ban outdoor burning. For more information on the bans, click here.