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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Wildfire breaks out west of Hanford Reservation; smoke could reach Spokane Monday

UPDATED: Mon., July 3, 2017

A new wildfire west of the Hanford Reservation grew in size Monday, sending smoke toward Spokane.

The fire, which started Sunday, had burned an estimated 8,500 acres of grass and brush by Monday morning.

By mid-afternoon, the burn had grown to 20,000 acres with about 30 percent contained.

About 400 fire personnel were working the blaze, located north of state Highway 24 midway between Yakima and Tri-Cities, according to fire officials on the InciWeb system.

The fire has been dubbed the Silver Dollar Fire because it is located north of the Silver Dollar Cafe at the junction of state Highway 24 and state Highway 241 in an area known as Barrell Springs.

“Dozers are being utilized to construct containment lines and crews to conduct burnout operations. Air tankers and helicopters are supporting ground personnel with retardant and water drops,” according to the Monday afternoon update on InciWeb.

State Highways 240 from Highway 24 to Highway 225 and Highway 24 from Highway 241 to the Vernita Bridge are closed due to the fire.

Highway closures were going to be reassessed at 6 p.m. Monday to determine whether any of the routes could be reopened safely.

Level 1 evacuation alerts were in place for the Barrell Springs area and Level 2 alerts were in place for the Gold Creek area. A Level 1 alert calls on residents to get ready to evacuate and to monitor emergency services agencies for updates. Level 2 includes getting ready, but also calls for voluntary evacuation of the area threatened.

The InciWeb update said the Columbia River was closed above Priest Rapids Dam to ensure safety for fire aircraft refilling water tanks from the river. The closure was ordered by the Coast Guard.

The cause of the fire, which started Sunday, was not known. It is burning on federal Bureau of Land Management property.

National Weather Service forecasters said that smoke from the fire was easily seen on visible satellite images on Monday morning.

Forecasters said the plume was expected to drift northeast and could reach the Spokane region Tuesday.

The fire also forced the evacuation of some workers at the Hanford nuclear site on Sunday.

KING-TV reported that all nonessential employees north of the Wye Barricade were sent home due to heavy smoke in the area, which impacted visibility.

At the same time, the National Weather Service issued a red flag fire warning from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday as a weak cold front crosses the area, increasing winds.

The warning was in place for the Yakima and Ellensburg areas along the eastern Cascades and into the Yakima River Valley. Ellensburg was forecast to see gusts to 36 mph.

Forecasters said that hot temperatures, wind and low humidity are a danger for wildfires.

The warning was generally west of the Silver Dollar Fire.

On Monday, the state Department of Natural Resources upped fire danger levels and increased restrictions on activity on DNR lands.

In Spokane, forecasters were calling for a high of 86 on Monday and 89 on Independence Day.

Saturday and Sunday recorded highs of 88, which was 9 degrees above normal.

A heat wave is expected to set in starting Wednesday with highs approaching 100 degrees Thursday through Saturday.

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