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Wildfire near Nespelem swells in size

UPDATED: Sat., July 25, 2020

A fire on the Colville Reservation swelled in size on Friday.

The Greenhouse Fire reportedly burned some 1,200 acres on Thursday and led to a Level 3 evacuation notice, meaning danger in the area was imminent and life-threatening, said Kathy Moses, communications specialist for Environmental Trust Program and public information officer at the Mount Tolman Fire Center.

By Friday evening, it had grown in fire-friendly weather to span 5,400 acres , Moses said.

But as the wildfire crept up steeper slopes on Friday, the center downgraded the Level 3 notice as some smoke cleared out of the area.

A Level 2 evacuation notice, which means residents will need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, remains in place for a large area near Nespelem. Highway 155 is open but Columbia River Road is closed, Moses said.

The threat from the fire could increase again, Moses said. The blaze is heading out of grassy areas and into forested areas where it will have more fuel to burn, Moses said.

On top of its trajectory toward timber, crews are facing a Red Flag fire weather warning in Okanogan County, meaning high winds could stoke the fire further. In the meantime, new fires have started in the area, depleting firefighting resources, Moses said.

George Geissler, state forester and supervisor of wildfire operations, tweeted a video Thursday showing a fleet of Department of Natural Resources helicopters that has responded to the fire, saying the aviation team “has been putting in some amazing work this year.”

Those helicopters have been dropping water on hot spots and cooling down the area for firefighters, including a team from Oregon that arrived Friday. That team will be briefed Friday evening and crews will fight the fire through the night.

“We’re trying to get some substantial work completed today to get a line around the entire fire,” Moses said.

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