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Wednesday, August 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 69° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

As crews begin to contain Hanford-area wildfire, smoke’s path uncertain

UPDATED: Fri., July 19, 2019, 10:55 p.m.

Benton County Fire Protection District #2 crews at the Cold Creek Fire on Friday. (Courtesy of Benton County Fire Protection District #2)
Benton County Fire Protection District #2 crews at the Cold Creek Fire on Friday. (Courtesy of Benton County Fire Protection District #2)

Smoke from the nearly 42,000-acre Cold Creek wildfire near the Tri-Cities is not expected to reach Spokane this weekend, but air quality could decrease rapidly depending on winds and fire activity, according to a forecast from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.

Light northeast winds are expected for the weekend that should keep the smoke from affecting Spokane air quality, according to the agency’s Friday forecast.

But air quality could dip into the moderate range Sunday or Monday if the wind changes direction or the fire picks up, the forecast said.

The Cold Creek Fire started Thursday afternoon and was 60% contained as of Friday afternoon.

“It burned a little bit on the Hanford site but they quickly extinguished it,” said Rae Moss, a spokeswoman for Hanford.

Moss said the fire is not affecting any of the facilities at the decommissioned nuclear site and that the fire department on site has been called off.

Over 200 firefighters from various agencies from across the state have responded, said Ron Fryer, a representative for the Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team.

“Mother Nature has been really good to us today, and we’ve got good work done on the fire,” Fryer said.

He also said it was 10 degrees cooler Friday than Thursday and the winds substantially died down.

Three aircraft supported crews on Thursday, but Friday the focus was on burnout operations to help control the direction of the fire.

Most of the thick black smoke visible from the fire is from burnout operations, Fryer said.

State Route 24 and Highway 240 were briefly closed Thursday but were reopened.

Fryer said the fire was human-caused but did not offer further information.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the area for Thursday afternoon. While the warning was no longer in effect Friday, fire danger remained high in the area.

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