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Cool weather, rains help fight wildfires

Cooler weather and scattered rain showers aided firefighters working a blaze north of Colville on Wednesday.

The 375-acre Quinns Meadow Road fire, which started Tuesday afternoon about 20 miles from Colville, was mostly trailed by Wednesday evening, said Department of Natural Resources spokesman Brett Walker. Some of the residents who had been asked to evacuate were allowed to return, he said.

At least 30 residential structures are at risk, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Walker said he did not have an estimate of the number of evacuees or firefighters on scene. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Crews have contained a roughly 10-acre fire burning in timber, brush and grass just south of Chewelah, Walker said. He said it was about 40 to 50 percent extinguished Wednesday evening.

The cause of the fire, started Tuesday, is unknown.

The approximately 10-acre Dulwich fire, started Tuesday about 2 miles southwest of Orient, has also been contained, Walker said.

Walker said crews are hurrying to contain fires before weather warms. High temperatures were expected to be in the 60s and 70s across the state by Thursday, well below normal for this time of year, forecasters said.

“The weather is actually going to be a little tougher because it’s supposed to heat back up towards the end of the week,” he said.

High winds caused the Columbia Complex fire near Dayton to expand about six miles farther east Tuesday, and it consumed about 8,600 more acres between Tuesday and Wednesday evening, according to Evacuation orders remained in effect Wednesday for several areas near the fire, started Aug. 21 by lightning.

The Red Cross was available at the Dayton Fire Hall to distribute food, and a mental health specialist was on hand to help people coping with fire-related stress.

Elsewhere in Washington, cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped slow the growth of major wildfires. In some locations, higher winds that accompanied a cold front into the region actually helped push fires back on themselves.

The Tripod Complex in north-central Washington grew by about 5,000 acres and was estimated at more than 147,095 acres Wednesday. The fire stalled after burning to Windy Peak in the Pasayten Wilderness.

“With this colder weather, we have been able to go back in and re-engage the fire on the northeast edge,” where crews were pulled back Monday and Tuesday because of extreme fire conditions, Tripod Complex fire spokeswoman Diane Bedell said Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re hoping to make some headway today and a little bit tomorrow before the weather changes,” she said.

There are 1,941 people battling the Tripod Complex, which remained about 48 percent trailed, despite stepped-up efforts to take advantage of weather conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In North Idaho, the 1,611-acre Hughes 32 Complex fire caused officials to close the U.S. Forest Service’s remote Navigation Campground on Upper Priest Lake. Helicopters continue to dip from Upper Priest Lake, and boaters should use extreme caution, according to a Forest Service press release.

About 70 firefighters are fighting the blazes, located between 10 miles north of Nordman, Idaho, and the Canadian-U.S. border. The lightning-sparked fires are about 4 percent contained, according to the release.

Minimal fire activity occurred at the complex Wednesday due to rain, cooler temperatures and higher humidity. Slightly warmer temperatures, less wind and high relative humidity are predicted for today.