Firefighters getting upper hand on huge wildfire; cost hits $3.5M

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ELLENSBURG — The cost of that massive wildfire in central Washington just hit $3.5 million and there’s still plenty of land and homes in harm’s way.

fireThunderstorms are adding fuel to the fire.

The fire is now estimated at 80,000acres, but the good news is it is 35 percent contained.

“Yesterday it did not look good and it was very intense, a lot of smoke, trees torching behind me like Roman candles,” wildfire spokesman Jeff Sevigney said.

That was yesterday (Wednesday) and what a difference a day makes.

On day six of the Colockum Tarps wildfire Thursday, it was still burning in three different areas of Kittitas County near Ellensburg but there was cautious optimism.

“The cooler temperatures that we saw today, the increase in the RH that we saw today, and the rain that we just got in the last half-hour,  I think our firefighters will have a tremendous opportunity to put the finishing touches on this fire that we need,” incident response team member Jen Croft said.

There is less fire and less smoke as firefighters appear to be getting the upper hand on this wildfire, thanks in part to cooler temperatures and rain.

That’s exactly what those who were evacuated wanted to hear.

They came to the Central Washington University campus looking for information about the fire.

Becky Baker evacuated her home yesterday, taking only the things she treasures and needs the most.

“Things that I couldn’t replace, family heirlooms and stuff.  In fact they were already packed from last year and then just getting your necessary items, your checkbook and any paperwork, passports and all that stuff in case your house burned down,” Baker said.

Baker and her neighbors were able to return late Thursday after a level three evacuation order was downgraded to level two.

That means the more than 400 firefighters are getting the job done — with a little help from Mother Nature.

“Mother nature`s got all the cards here, we`re waiting to see – so far she`s dealing us a good hand today but that can change at a moment`s notice,” Sevigney said.

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