Fire crews in Cheney on Thursday continued to fight four wildfires, remnants of Tuesday night’s storm that caused hundred of area lightning strikes and left smoldering embers that grew to fires on Wednesday.
The Graham Fire, which had burned 100 acres as of Thursday, and three other Cheney-area fires were consolidated under a Type 3 incident management team and named the Cheney Complex Fire Wednesday night.
As of about 9 p.m. Thursday, the complex had burned a total of 171 acres and was 20% contained.
None of the fires saw significant growth since Wednesday afternoon, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney, a spokesperson for Northeast Washington Type 3 Incident Management Team.
“As long as conditions hold the way they are weather-wise, I think we’re looking pretty good,” said John Nicholas, an IMT spokesperson and South Pend Oreille Fire and Rescue volunteer.
Of the smaller Cheney fires, the Badger Fire was 18 acres and the Badger Lake Fire was 21 acres as of Thursday night, Nicholas said. The Grogan Fire grew from 10 to 32 acres between Wednesday and Thursday night.
“We did have some activity on the fire lines today, but no fire escaped the perimeter of the established containment lines,” Sevigney said Thursday.
He said crews at the Graham Fire worked on “burnout operations,” where vegetation between the fire line and where the fire has already burned is scorched.
“That just makes that line even more solid,” Sevigney said.
Local fire crews from the Cheney area battled the fires throughout Wednesday night and the early hours of Thursday, and supporting crews relieved them Thursday morning, he said.
Nearly 200 personnel from jurisdictions around the state were fighting the fires, including a Stevens County strike team and private contract crews.
Ten residents who were evacuated Wednesday were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday night.
Only six residents south of state Highway 904 were under a Level 1 evacuation order Thursday, which suggests homeowners be prepared to leave in an emergency. All other evacuation orders were lifted.
Highway 904 reopened Wednesday night after a lengthy closure, but Sevigney said drivers should be aware of traffic from fire crews and of smoke that could blow over the road.
Aircraft fighting the fires Wednesday were not needed Thursday, Sevigney said.
Sevigney said crews will be in the area at least a couple more days ensuring the fires don’t spread beyond their containment lines. Firefighters will construct waterbars to prevent erosion, in addition to patrolling for hot spots.
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