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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fast-moving brush fire continues to burn close to Valleyford

A plume of smoke rises from a fire near Mica in southern Spokane Valley. (Joe Stoup)
By Nathanael Massey and Rebecca White The Spokesman-Review

A fast-moving brush fire threatened homes near Valleyford on Saturday evening, drawing a strong response from fire crews and prompting local officials to prepare evacuation measures in the Belmont Road area.

Level 3 evacuation notices, meaning residents should leave immediately, were issued for an area from Belmont and Chapman north to Chapman and Linke, east across Linke to Saltese Lake Extension Road, south on Saltese Lake Extension and west to Belmont, according to messages from Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.

The area contains between 30 and 35 homes, according to KHQ.

Level 2 evacuations, meaning residents should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice, were in effect from Linke and Chapman north to 32nd and east to Saltese Lake Road, according to Schaeffer.

Veronica Randall, an Intel Coordinator with the Northeast Washington Interagency Communication Center, said the fire had grown from 30 acres to 40 to 45 acres as of 8 p.m. Initially confined to an area of timber, it had pushed to the northeast under warm, dry winds, she said, and had begun moving “pretty fast” through grass. In the timber, the blaze was burning upslope and spotting, which means that embers from the fire were blowing to the area around it.

Reports of the fire were originally called in south of a shooting range on Belmont Road. Randall said structures were threatened from the outset, though as of the most recent reporting, none had been damaged.

Despite the fire’s movement, Washington State Department of Natural Resources reported around 9 p.m. that air assets and retardant had gone some way toward checking the blaze. “Good interagency work is resulting in good progress,” the department said in a tweet. “Ground crews have a line around most of the fire.”

By 9:30 p.m., containment levels had grown to roughly 60 percent, with the fire at between 50 and 60 acres, said Lonnie Rash, assistant chief with Fire District 8. “We still have some pretty heavy fire activity within the fire footprint,” he said, though adding that crews had a line around 90 percent of the burn.

A strong deployment of aircraft was sent to deal with the fire, including two heavy air tankers, a lead plane, one air attack platform, three fire buses and a single engine air tanker. In addition, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources tweeted that two inmate crews, three DNR engines, two fire bosses and one helicopter were responding to the blaze. The Spokane Valley fire department tweeted that they were sending two fire engines, two brush trucks, a ladder truck and a Valley command vehicle to assist.

Multiple other crews from around the region, including Spokane fire departments, contributed to the effort.