Mandatory evacuations have been lifted for residents living along Pend Oreille Road near U.S. Highway 2 in north Spokane County.
The area south of Laurel Road, east of Highway 2 and west of Milan Road was under an evacuation order for several hours Tuesday afternoon. Those orders were lifted at 8 p.m., but the Red Cross said it still plans to open a shelter at Riverside Elementary School, 3802 E. Deer Park-Milan Road, at 8:30 p.m.
Multiple fire crews from Spokane County Fire District 4 and other agencies were called just before 4 p.m. to a large brush fire four miles east of Deer Park along the highway, which was named the Laurel Fire. Two water-dumping Fire Boss planes and a helicopter were soon overhead and were dumping water by 4:30 p.m., the Washington Department of Natural Resources said.
Highway 2 remains closed between Westmoreland Road and Deer Park-Milan Road. It is expected to reopen at 10 p.m.
Megan Hill, spokeswoman for Fire District 4, said structures were threatened along Pend Oreille Road. A trailer near a gravel pit burned but Hill said she did not think it was a residence. There have been no injuries reported.
The fire has been estimated at 57 acres and has a line around it. Two strike crews are expected to monitor the fire overnight.
Hill said the fire initially spread quickly in the dry trees and grass, but then slowed down.
Crews from Stevens County Fire District 1, South Pend Oreille Fire and Rescue, Spokane County Fire District 9, Spokane County Fire District 8, DNR and the Bureau of Land Management assisted with the fire.
Hours earlier, crews responded to a two-acre brush fire between Pittsburgh Street and Farwell Road just north of Spokane in Fire District 9. Hill said there was another small half acre brush fire reported at Highway 2 and Woolard Road just before the Laurel Hill fire. The cause of all the fires is undetermined and Hill said there’s no way to know yet if the fires are connected.
“It does seem awfully strange, but we can’t really jump to conclusions,” she said. “DNR does a really good job investigating.”
The Laurel Fire started along the northbound lanes of Highway 2 and spread from there, Hill said.
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