Wildfires across Eastern Washington burned through brush, forest and grassland Friday amid 100-degree heat as the region braced for more hot weather and the onset of Fourth of July fireworks.
Several homes and buildings have burned, and there was an emergency American Red Cross shelter readied in a local high school to help residents in the Springdale area northwest of Spokane who were among the dozens of households evacuated as the 500-acre Rail Canyon fire chewed through forest.
Smoke could be seen for miles as steady winds blew eastward. At least one fire official told television reporters the fire was started by fireworks; however, state officials could not confirm that assertion.
The fires – including one north of Colville, another south of Republic and a small blaze south of Spokane between Spangle and Valleyford – stretched crews thin as they required bulldozers, water trucks, helicopters and retardant-dumping planes around the eastern part of the state.
The Rail Canyon fire grew quickly, according to the Department of Natural Resources. It burned two residential buildings and six outbuildings, DNR spokesman Eric Keller said.
“Everything that we’ve got is going that way right now,” Keller said. “We have dozers on it, air tankers dropping on it and everything. But it’s getting bigger.”
The fire moved northeast into industrial timberland, Keller said. About 100 firefighters responded.
“We’re not getting a good containment line around this one for a while,” Keller said. “We don’t have the resources to take care of this one.”
The Red Cross shelter stayed open through the night, representative Megan Snow said.
Meanwhile a 250-acre fire near Williams Lake, north of Colville, burned as high winds swept through the area. By 8:30 p.m. the fire had died down significantly, DNR spokesman Brett Walker said.
Although the fire did threaten some structures, no buildings burned. The blaze was mostly in mountainous, wooded areas, Walker said.
“We’re looking pretty good. Although it’s tough to say with a fire this size,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have on hand.”
Farther south the 21 Mile Grade fire, between Keller and Republic, continued to burn Friday. The 1,000-acre burn was fueled by hot weather and strong winds, according to a news release. It sent a mushroom cloud of smoke into the air that loomed above main street in Republic.
And firefighters have nearly contained the devastating Sleepy Hollow fire in Wenatchee that destroyed 29 homes and blackened 4 square miles.
Investigators are following leads that the fire was started by people, although it remains unknown if the cause was accidental.
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