KENNEWICK, Wash. – After burning four to five houses in south Kennewick, a wind-driven wildfire was threatening Finley homes Saturday night.
Benton County deputies were going to homes on East Game Farm Road, Oak Road and in the Steel Springs neighborhood, warning them of the approaching blaze.
State fire resources, including two wildland strike teams and specialists from the fire protection bureau, were mobilized to help fight what’s being called the Bofer Canyon Fire.
No serious injuries were reported, but fire officials had yet to be able to check inside some of the burned homes and sheds. Two horses were confirmed killed.
Officials were asking residents evacuated from the Canyon Lakes neighborhood to return to their houses to help fight hot spots while fire crews were pulled east to protect other houses.
“Severity potential? We could have lost hundreds (of homes), literally hundreds in this wind,” said Kennewick Fire Chief Vince Beasley, who heaped praise on the community and fire and law enforcement officials for coming together.
A home at the south end of South Ely Street burns unchecked Saturday after a wind-driven wildfire raced across the hill from the Bofer Canyon area into south Kennewick. Several homes were destroyed by the fast-moving flames.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources at 3:45 p.m. at the request of acting Chief Don Taylor with Benton County Fire District 1.
A state emergency operations center at Camp Murray was activated to coordinate state assistance, and the state fire marshal officials were on their way to Kennewick to help with that coordination.
Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb said an emergency operations center was activated and extra dispatchers were called in to help take emergency calls.
The fire was not under control in Finley by 8 p.m. and was threatening houses, crops and wind turbines.
Wayne and Carol Miller were two of the people caught in the middle of the wildfire.
Wayne, 78, was playing golf at Canyon Lakes when he spotted the flames crest the hill and rushed to his Ely Street home to find his wife fighting the fire.
“I could see it coming from way over there,” Carol said. “So I got a hose out and the flames started coming down at me. “
They escaped before the fire swept through their home.
“We just got out of there and we watched it burn,” she said.
One of the homes reportedly destroyed was a historic home moved from the Columbia River shoreline after being saved from the flood of 1948 to higher ground.
The fire broke out along Bofer Canyon Road at 2:46 p.m. and quickly moved into the Canyon Lakes and Inspiration Estates neighborhoods about 3:15 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
One person was reported trapped by fire in his home on 53rd Avenue, but crews were able to pull him out. There were reports of others being helped to escape ahead of the flames.
It’s unclear how many people were evacuated in Kennewick and Finley as the fire quickly consumed the dry grasses.
“At this point, we believe the majority of the fire in the city limits of Kennewick is out,” Kennewick police Sgt. Trever Davis said during a news briefing. “The firefighting assets are pushed to their limit. … So they have deployed as many firefighters over there to help as possible.”
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