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Friday, August 14, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Road 11 wildfire sends smoke to Spokane

UPDATED: Sun., July 12, 2020

The “Road 11” wildfire near Mansfield burned 10,000 acres Saturday, causing evacuations in the area and sending smoke to Spokane.

The fire started Saturday just before 1 p.m. and quickly grew, causing evacuations in the Mansfield area after the fire damaged several outbuildings, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Additional resources were called in immediately. At one point 10 aircraft were fighting the fire, according to the Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team. With strong afternoon winds, crews struggled to contain the fire.

Those crews continued fighting the fire throughout the night but it is still not contained, the interagency team said.

A cold-weather system is moving into the area, which could cause erratic fire behavior and gusting winds, potentially giving the fire the strength to jump roads and continue toward the town of Mansfield, the interagency team said. The town of about 350 residents is on a level 2 evacuation, which means residents should be prepared to leave quickly.

Smoke from the fire wafted into Spokane on Saturday night with winds traveling west to east, said Ron Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane .

The smoke followed Highway 2 and arrived in Spokane, he said. However, with such strong winds air quality is not a huge concern, Miller said.

“Usually, when it’s that windy it’s typically not a huge air quality problem, other air will be getting mixed into it,” Miller said. “With a smoke plume like last night, you can get some brief instances where the sensors might notice it, but usually it’s not something that’s going to cause a huge problem.”

Miller said that the weather conditions Saturday were perfect for wildfires, especially in the Columbia Basin area, where a fire started near the Old Vantage Highway.

The fire burned 15 to 20 acres of heavy sagebrush and was wind-driven. No structures were lost and the area was evacuated of campers, according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

The area has seen wildfires in years prior, the sheriff’s office said.

The fire was contained just before midnight, the sheriff’s office tweeted.

Brush and other fine fuels are “dried out and cured and ready to burn” in the Columbia Basin area, Miller said.

“That’s where the problem spots could be,” he said.

But upcoming weather won’t create perfect fire conditions like Saturday, he said.

“Most likely we won’t see smoke like we saw last night,” Miller said. The weather is “not like it was yesterday when it was hotter and the wind was blowing.”

In the Wenatchee area, not far from Mansfield, temperatures are forecast to be in the 70s today and in the 80s for the rest of next week, Miller said.

“It’s not a perfect set up of what we had (Saturday),” he said.

In Spokane, wildfire fuel is still drying out, but as summer continues and weather remains hot, brush fires are likely to start, Miller said.

“We had a lot more moisture, which is typical, so our grasses will eventually cure out and become flammable as well, but we’re not quite to that,” he said.

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