The 243 Command Fire in Grant County that spewed smoke across Eastern Washington earlier this week has entered its final throes of life.
The 20,500-acre wildfire, which began late Monday night near Wanapum Dam burning dry grass and sage on the east side of the Columbia River, was 65% contained as of Thursday evening, fire crews said, with the likelihood it will be fully contained by Friday night or Saturday morning.
The fire sparked just north of Beverly, causing evacuations for dozens of people in the small community of Smyrna, about 13 miles to the east on Road 17 South West. Evacuation notices also were issued in the towns of Schawana, Wanapum Village and Beverly.
Firefighters dropped evacuation notices at 6 p.m. Thursday, opened all roads and allowed residents to return home.
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, 20,500 acres had burned, said Ben Shearer, a communications officer on the fire.
Some fire crews have been sent home, and most of the work is being done by hand crews that are in narrow canyons and brush groves. They’re having to deal with wildlife like rattlesnakes, but no snakebites have been reported, he said.
Two firefighters sustained minor injuries in the fire, Shearer said, and one garage was burned along with several power poles and road infrastructure.
“Overall, it’s been pretty successful in that aspect,” he said.
State and federal resources were mobilized Tuesday as the fire ballooned quickly from 3,000 acres to about 15,000 acres as it pushed east. The fire’s progress was halted, however, when crews built fire lines that stopped it from crossing Road E Southwest – about 16 miles to the east of the fire’s point of origin.
Altogether, about 380 personnel fought the fire, including those flying multiple aircraft.
A cause of the fire has not been determined.
In Spokane and elsewhere east of the fire, smoke was not expected to be an issue, at least in the short term. The Spokane Clean Air Agency recorded air in the “good” range Thursday, with a quality index of from 21 to 33 – some of the lowest recordings since Monday, before the fire began.
Air quality is expected to remain healthy moving into the weekend.
Tuesday afternoon, smoke from the fire made Spokane’s air the worst in the country, the National Weather Service reported. Wednesday’s air, while still smoky, returned to “moderate” and then “good,” just as fire activity dwindled.
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