Wildfires cause closures and evacuations

THURSDAY, AUG. 26, 2010, 5:58 P.M.

“Erratic, gusty winds” are fueling fires across Eastern Washington, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Around 8:30 p.m. officials in Davenport reported the city is in a total power outage, with a fire sized at 600 acres or more. Avista reported there are about 2,300 people in Davenport without power.

Located about four miles south of Davenport near Old Kucks Road, Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers said the fire was burning in an open space with few homes. The type of fuel is mostly sagebrush.

At this time there are no injuries, and the only structure burned is a shed. The county is filling out paperwork to request state assistance, Magers said.

Earlier today, officials in Stevens County told residents of the Moran Creek Road, Westover Road and Philleo Road areas to evacuate in the face of a wildfire, called the Slide Creek Fire, burning near Arden.

DNR spokesman Guy Gifford said “numerous structures and homes have been lost” in the fire estimated now at more than 500 acres.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Colville High School for evacuees, located at 154 Highway 20 East, according to a release. Residents are asked bring clothing, bedding such as pillows and blankets, and personal items including hygiene items, medications, and baby items.

The other main fire burning currently is at Fish Hatchery Road, four miles north of Republic, said Brett Walker, a DNR spokesman.

The Fish Hatchery Road fire started around 1:30 p.m., and DNR estimates it’s burned about 320 acres. DNR confirms the loss of at least one structure. The Red Cross has opened a shelter in Republic at Republic High School, located at 30306 Highway 20.

For much of the day, a the Inland Northwest was under a “red flag warning,” issued by the National Weather Service. Red-flag warnings are issued when high winds, combined with already-dry conditions, make for an increased threat of fire.

The wind blew smoke and dust throughout the region, prompting the Spokane Regional Air Quality Agency to list the conditions outside as “unhealthy.”

A wind gust of 41 mph was recorded at Felts Field, and the unofficial gust reading at Spokane International Airport was 39, said Steve Bodner of the weather service in Spokane.

Walker said a fire south of Cheney, near Wells and Cheney Plaza Roads, is contained. The fires were first reported at 2:25 p.m. Firefighters from Spokane County Fire District 3 responded along with firefighters from other agencies, a dispatcher said.

An earlier fire 1/2 mile outside Davenport was quickly brought under control, Magers said. The fire, which was burned 200 or so acres of fields near town, put up a lot of smoke and possibly was started by a combine, he said. The smoke filtered into town, disrupting the first day of the Lincoln County Fair. While the fairground weren’t evacuated, vendors were allowed to leave if they felt the need, he said. One woman was hospitalized with breathing difficulties, he added.

Magers praised volunteer fire crews for getting on the job so quickly.

“If it had jumped Highway 2, we would have been here for a week,” he said.

Highway 2 was briefly closed in both directions, he said.

While weather conditions on Friday will be “a little breezy,” Bodner said, it should be significantly more calm than today. And cooler too, which will be good news for any fire crews in the region mopping up from today’s fires. The forecast calls for a high in Spokane of 69 degrees, he said.

By Saturday, the cooling trend will accelerate. Saturday morning in Spokane will be cool, into the lower 40. Known cold spots, such as Deer Park and Priest Lake, he said, could dip down near freezing.


• A fire burning south of Pullman has been contained and Highway 195 at Staley Road is now re-opened.

• State Route 172 is closed from the U.S. Highway 2 junction with state Route 17 because of winds, blowing dust and zero visibility, according to the Washington state Department of Transportation.

This story is developing.

Tags: wildfire

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