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Firefighters trying to contain Washington wildfire

CLE ELUM, Wash. — Calmer winds have firefighters hoping they can make progress today containing a wildfire that has burned about 70 homes and more than 40 square miles in central Washington.

Things went well overnight, said incident commander Rex Reed.

“We’re at 800 people assigned to this fire now, so we should have a good day,” he said.

Firefighters are focusing on preventing the fire from threatening a housing development near Cle Elum and moving into a stand of timber.

The fire that broke out Monday at a bridge construction site is about 10 percent contained. At least 400 homes with an estimated 900 people have been evacuated in the rural community on the east side of the Cascades, about 75 miles east of Seattle.

No injuries have been reported.

A number of homes that burned were along Bettas Road near Cle Elum. An Associated Press photographer witnessed about eight people using hand tools Tuesday to cut a fire line in an attempt to protect one home.

The grass fire was suddenly whipped up by the wind and came directly toward the group, causing them to scatter. Everyone made it away safely, and the fire slowed, allowing a man with a water truck to dampen the perimeter of the house just in time to save it from the blaze.

Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency for Kittitas and Yakima counties in response to the blaze. That provided air support from the Washington National Guard.

The spreading fire Monday night threatened Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. “They definitely know there’s weirdness happening,” Outreach Director Diana Goodrich said Tuesday.