Some Malaga residents get to return home as wildfire moves south

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MALAGA, Wash. — For the first time since the Colockum Tarps fire swept through this Chelan County area, the public was allowed Tuesday to enter the evacuation zone near the town of Malaga.


A view of the charred timber and earth around Malaga, Wash., from the wildfire.

It was more difficult for some than others.

“It looks like a bomb went off around my place. It`s really not a whole lot left. The main structure of the house is still standing. All our outbuildings, our horse barn, shops, everything is burned to the ground,” victim Greg Simmons said.

The damage is concentrated in a small neighborhood along Colockum Pass road, one house gone, then another, and another — while right next door firefighters were able to save a home.

Don Keeley is also among the lucky.

His house is also still standing and he wasn’t sure it would be.

“Very, very, very lucky because I’m 78 years old and to start over or something like that would be pretty hard,” Keeley said.

But the news is not all good for Keeley.

Not one, not two but three of his outhouses burned along with his RV and a refrigerated trailer.

Meanwhile the Colockum Tarps fire continues to push south and west into Kittitas County, where level-two and level-three evacuation orders have been issued and a state of emergency declared.

In addition to the 400 people already working on the fire, three hot shot crews arrived early Tuesday morning and went straight to work.

“You just have to take every day for what it is and do what we do and stay safe,” hot shot firefighter Thane Shetler said.

The goal is to contain the fire on the southwest corner, keeping it out of the tall trees and a small neighborhood.

The fast moving fire grew 20-thousand acres Tuesday alone and has now covered more than 52,000 acres.

All resources available are being brought to bear to contain this fast-moving fire before any more property or lives are lost.

“We have a DC-10 air tanker, two single-engine air tankers, four helicopters, seven hand crews and dozens of engines all working together to hold the fire,” Incident Commander Brian Gales said.

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