SELAH, Wash. — Evacuation orders have been lifted in Yakima County, where a wildfire has been burning since Tuesday morning but it has moved away from endangered homes. More than 10,000 acres have been charred northwest of Selah, and the fire was only 15% contained Tuesday night.
Firefighters are battling high winds, as well as the flames from what they’re calling the Cottonwood 2 Fire.
Crews believe it was a spark from someone target practicing in an approved area that started the fire.
“Fire can go a long way very quickly,” said Jim Hall, director of the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management. “It doesn’t take much to get one going.”
At one point Tuesday afternoon, a dozen homes were in the fire’s path. Residents were ordered to evacuate, and there was a scramble to get animals out of harm’s way.
“They were frantic,” said James Purdy, who helped move his neighbor’s horses. “I would be too, seeing everything going on.”
Crews from across the county and state were called in, as were helicopters and air tankers. By evening, they were able to lift the evacuation orders as the fire moved away from populated areas. But they say it could take days before the fire is under control.
“The problem is we’ve got this wind blowing, and sometimes fire can jump up where it’s most unexpected,” Hall said. “So they’re keeping a lot of people around and waiting to see what happens here.”
They’re also waiting to see what happens as we get into the even hotter and drier summer months. This fire is a reminder to everyone of just how quickly a fire can spread.
“Caution is a big thing. We’re going into a potentially big fire season and don’t want to see any more like this.”
There was fire damage to one home. A barn and a shop were also burned. Crews only have 10% containment right now, but they don’t think any more structures are in danger.
DNR says firefighting resources are on the scene include ground crews, 6 helicopters, a water tanker and a type one hotshot crew was on the way.
Smoke is visible from I-90, I-82 and Highway 12.
The Washington State Patrol Chief Deput Fire Marshal Bill Slosson said the fire started at about 10:30 a.m. and that the cause is under investigation. However, Selah Deputy Fire Chief Jim Martin told the Herald Republic that the fire was believed to have started when sparks at a shooting range ignited dry grass in the state’s Wenas Wildlife Area.
Slosson said mobilization specialists from the Fire Protection Bureau have ordered four strike teams (20 engines and 4 tenders) to assist resources already on scene.