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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Evacuation orders lifted after wildfire burns 400 acres in Stevens County

July 24, 2017 Updated Mon., July 24, 2017 at 11:32 p.m.

By Chad Sokol and Jonathan Glover The Spokesman-Review

Evacuation orders were lifted Monday evening after a wildfire burned more than 400 acres in rural Stevens County.

The Bissell fire started about 7:15 p.m. Sunday about 8 miles north of the town of Hunters, east of state Highway 25 and the Columbia River.

Crews battled strong winds overnight as the fire consumed 350 acres of timber, brush and tall grass. About 200 firefighters were on the scene Monday morning, aided by helicopters, small planes and larger air tankers dropping fire retardant.

The blaze grew to 411 acres on Monday but was 10 percent contained by about 8 p.m., said Trooper Jeff Sevigney of the Washington State Patrol, the public information officer for the fire response. No injuries were reported and no structures had been damaged.

Sevigney said earlier in the day that wind patterns were favorable and were pushing the fire away from nearby homes. About 25 residents living within a 1-mile radius of 3987 Bissell Road had been told to evacuate, or prepare to evacuate, but they were allowed to return home Monday evening.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and Sevigney said Avista Utilities crews were working to restore power to a 40-mile stretch of land along the highway Monday evening.

Earlier in the day more than 900 customers were without power, and Avista spokesman David Vowels said the utility had been asked to shut off power to some lines because of the fire risk.

Vowels said there was no apparent damage to Avista’s infrastructure.

When the evacuations were ordered Sunday evening, some residents took refuge at the Columbia School in Hunters, where the Red Cross had set up an emergency shelter.

Bill Wadlington, the superintendent of Columbia School District, said the town lost power at about midnight Sunday.

“We have a generator for emergency power that we’re maintaining some electricity, some emergency lighting,” Wadlington said. “Other than that, we do have enough power to brew coffee.”

Wadlington said the town of Hunters and the residents “in the sticks” had banded together and are accustomed to seasonal wildfires. He said several residents were already fighting the fire themselves when firefighters from the state Department of Natural Resources arrived.

“We just take this as part of living in the woods,” he said. “And we know we got a lot of good people that can help us.”

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