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Jolly Mountain fire: Over 1,000 evacuated; Inslee declares state of emergency

UPDATED: Sun., Sept. 3, 2017, 8:45 p.m.

The Jolly Mountain fire north of Cle Elum, Washington grew by about 4,000 acres over Saturday night and into Sunday morning, just hours after Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide state of emergency. Fire departments across Washington sent resources to battle the 28-square-mile blaze.

On Saturday, about 4,000 residents, including the entire town of Roslyn, were under evacuation orders to either leave immediately or be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Nearly 1,000 residences have been evacuated under level 3 – the most urgent level – and about 1,200 are under level 2 notices.

Father Brooks Beaulaurier, at the Immaculate Conception Church in Rosyln, said the town’s Labor Day parade and Sunday farmer’s market were both canceled on account of the evacuation. He said he didn’t hold Mass on Sunday morning either, instead telling people to stay at home in case they are asked to pack up and leave.

“We’re trying to stay on our toes,” he said over the phone Sunday afternoon. “We’re hoping and praying. We have an army of people here fighting this thing.”

Air quality in Roslyn was moderate Sunday morning, meaning those who suffer respiratory issues should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, according to information from the Washington Department of Ecology.

Beaulaurier said there was a thick, heavy cloud of smoke blanketing the town, prompting many people to stay indoors and avoid venturing outside. More southeast in Cle Elum and Ellensburg, the priest said smoke wasn’t as bad, but was still lingering.

“The smoke is almost as thick in Cle Elum as it was in Roslyn,” he said.

On Saturday evening, Inslee issued a state of emergency, citing the growing concern over the Jolly Mountain fire in his proclamation. The announcement allows state agencies to directly “utilize state resources and to do everything reasonably possible” to assist local firefighting efforts.

As of Sunday morning, about 600 personnel were on scene fighting the blaze, including crews from Spokane and Spokane Valley. Fire spokesman Tim Jones said crews are working to build and maintain fire lines along the southern and southeastern edges of the fire in order to protect at-risk structures while planes and helicopters drop water and fire retardant near the fire line areas.

“We do have resources on the ground actively seeking to protect those homes and properties,” he said. “But we’re in a holding pattern right now with the mission to, one, protect life, including firefighters and their safety, and the people of the public. And two, for the firefighters, it’s to hold on that line.”

Betsy Weyer, a Kirkland native who moved to Boston three years ago, has a cabin along the southeastern edge of Cle Elum Lake, which went under level 3 evacuation orders Saturday. For days she said she’s been actively searching for new information on the fire, checking by the hour for fire movement.

“All I can do, really, is obsess over all of these different links and information that’s on Facebook,” she said Sunday from her home in Boston.

Weyer praised the work by local and state fire agencies on keeping the public informed, and shunned commenters on social media who criticized firefighters for appearing to not take action soon enough.

“I might be naive, but it seems like the people running this are doing all they can,” she said. “All the nasty comments on Facebook aren’t helping anybody. And they aren’t helping your blood pressure.”

The fire is believed to have been caused by lightning strikes in the area on Aug. 11. It was zero percent contained as of Sunday afternoon.


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