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Watermelon Hill fire likely to be contained today

Mike Barker gazed out across Fishtrap Lake Resort amazed at his property’s narrow escape from the 10,500-acre Watermelon Hill fire.

Wildfires are an annual summer sight, but “none of them have come this close,” the resort owner said. Scorched land near the public boat launch ended just feet from resort residents’ mobile homes and trailers.

“The firefighters had their backs against the wall,” Barker said.

Firefighters doused remaining deep forest embers and finished digging fire lines around the Watermelon Hill wildfire about 26 miles west of Spokane on Tuesday in preparation for leaving today. The cooler weather, rain and decreased wind gave fire officials confidence that the human-caused blaze that erupted last week would be 100 percent contained by noon today.

No homes were destroyed in the fire and only two hay barns burned, said Chuck Turley, a Watermelon Hill wildfire spokesman. Although more than 100 residents had to be evacuated throughout the area during the fire, only one family had to use the temporary shelter set up at Cheney Middle School.

Most families have returned home, Turley said.

Lightning strikes reported in Central Oregon were already causing fire officials concerns about another round of wildfires in the region.

“With the front that’s moving in, there are new threats to worry about,” Turley said.

Authorities continue to look into the cause of the wildfire, but the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reported on Facebook that three individuals may have caused the wildfire by shooting at an explosive target.

Fishtrap Lake Resort remained closed to the public on Tuesday, allowing only those who live there to return and giving them a chance to recover from the wildfire.

Pete Wood helped neighbors on Tuesday by cleaning off the reddish-pink fire retardant that airplanes had dropped to protect homes.

“You have to clean it off or it will stain,” Wood said. “I’m trying to help people who can’t make it down right now.”

The 60-acre resort has about 50 seasonal residents who live there for a few months out of the year. Wood, who lives in Spokane for the rest of the year, said the wildfire frightened local residents.

“We were scared for everything we have up here,” he said.



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