Federal taxpayers may reimburse part of the cost of fighting the 2,000-acre Bowie Road fire, provided Washington state spends more than $1 million to fight it.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a request from the state for help in paying for the massive firefighting effort.
More than 550 firefighters from across Washington rushed to the Spokane area Sunday and Monday to battle the blaze.
Under the FEMA plan, the state may receive up to 70 percent reimbursement if the fire-suppression cost exceeds $1.1 million.
The costs of repairing or replacing public or private facilities aren’t eligible, said Robert Harper of the state emergency operations center.
Raging flames leave low spots untouched
Will Skuse, a resident of Jacobs Road on the West Plains, shook his head Monday as he walked across a crispy stretch of what used to be green pasture.
“It got hot here, man, real hot,” Skuse said. “It moved through here so fast there’s still some patches of dry weeds out there that it didn’t get.”
Indeed, several clumps of parched thistle in shallow depressions were untouched by the fire. Everything around them was scorched black.
School becomes Nine Mile Hilton
Firefighters brought in to battle the blaze turned Nine Mile Falls Elementary School into a home away from home.
They erected Army tents on the football and baseball fields as temporary sleeping quarters. Some shunned the tents in favor of grassy spots in the shade of trees, where they sprawled and snored.
A makeshift kitchen churned out bacon and eggs for night-shift crews returning from the lines.
Temporary wash basins with liquid soap and running water were available, as were showers. There also was a first-aid station in a tent and a place to grab clean clothes.
Portable generators, clanging and humming, powered it all.
Fiery honeymoon hotter than lipstick
The mobile home on a winding dirt road north of Airway Heights looked like a giant had stepped on it. The fire turned it into a pile of rubble.
The lawnmower survived, but the snowmobile was a charred skeleton. Both cars in the front yard were smudged with smoke.
The black Dodge Charger was also covered in lipstick. “Just married,” the rear window read. There also were doves kissing, red lips and a heart.
Two old balloons hung on ribbons off the rear bumper, bookending a Diet Coke can and an All-Sport bottle.
Pennsylvania to Airway Heights, still helping
Jan Kinsella flew into the Spokane airport at 6:30 p.m. Sunday from the floods in Pennsylvania, where she volunteered for the American Red Cross.
On Sunday, the crisis was much closer to home.
Kinsella, who lives in Airway Heights, was at Harmon Community Center by 8:30 p.m., helping evacuees shellshocked by the rampaging wildfire.
Nobody spent the night at the shelter Sunday, but people who lost homes and property trickled in all day Monday.
“I’m still numb,” Kinsella said Monday afternoon. The night before, she slept only two hours.
Firefighting friends and relatives
When she saw the approaching fire, Sue Sayers started packing. She piled clothes, family pictures and bills into suitcases. Then she grabbed pets and her 3-year-old daughter and left.
Her husband, Rob Sayers, stayed behind to fight the flames. Five friends came to help at the home, where Whispering Pines and Gordon roads meet. They stayed up all Sunday night.
The family lost a metal shed and a two-car garage. But the home, the gazebo, a hot tub and a trailer survived.
Relatives from England flew in for vacation just before 10 p.m. Sunday. They helped clean up and tackle hot spots on Monday.
“They’ll have a story to tell when they go home,” Sue Sayers said.