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Crews continue fight to contain wildfires raging across Eastern Washington

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 10, 2020

Crews continued to battle multiple wildfires Thursday morning across Eastern Washington, with officials reporting some containment of fires that have consumed hundreds of thousands of acres since Monday.

Large Fires: Cold Springs, Pearl Hill, Whitney

The Cold Springs fire had burned an estimated 172,000 acres by Thursday morning, having spread quickly since starting Sunday night near Omak.

Crews made good progress overnight Wednesday into Thursday, working on containment mainly near the Haley Creek area, where the most active fire were located, said Jeff Sevigney from the Northeast Washington Incident Management Team 3.

Level 2 and 3 evacuation orders are still in place.

Additional crews worked in that area Thursday, with additional resources and aircraft available to help firefighters on the ground, Sevigney said.

As of Thursday morning, the fire was 10% contained. Firefighters continued accessing properties that were lost as well as damaged infrastructure, Sevigney said.

Warmer weather is expected Friday with light winds. The Okanogan County Fairgrounds are open for livestock and has areas for RV campers. The Red Cross opened a shelter in Brewster and is coordinating shelter for evacuees. The Red Cross can be reached at (509) 670-5331.

The Pearl Hill fire, which started when the Cold Springs fire jumped the Columbia River near the town of Bridgeport was 10% contained as of Thursday morning, with 174,000 acres burned, according the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

Power was finally restored within Bridgeport town limits on Thursday morning, with evacuation reduced to a Level 2, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Bridgeport lost about 20 homes Monday night, according to the Mayor Janet Conklin.

The Whitney Fire near Davenport, which ignited Monday, had reached 20% containment as of Thursday morning with 50% lined, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The fire has burned an estimated 122,000 acres.

Light winds Wednesday resulted in about 22,000 acres of spread along the north and south ends of the fire along Highway 2.

Approximately four homes have burned and an unknown amount of secondary structures.

On Thursday, firefighters planned to focus their efforts on the north and south ends of the fire while also attacking the area near Highway 21 and working with landowners to protect active ranching operations and structures.

Evacuations are still in place, as some structures are threatened. U.S. Highway 2, which runs through the northern part of the fire, remains open.

Inchelium Complex

The Inchelium Complex fire has burned an estimated 14,834 acres since starting Monday, according to the interagency coordination center. The fire was 20% contained as of Thursday morning, with moderate fire activity.

All three fires are actively burning a mix of timber and brush on the Colville Indian Reservation.

Crews worked Wednesday to build direct bulldozer lines and plan to re-enforce those Thursday on the Inchelium Highway fire, said Trevor Wallace, operations section chief trainee. The fire is currently estimated at 5,453 acres.

The Fry fire has good direct control, Wallace said, with crews planning to work on reinforcement Thursday. It’s estimated at 500 acres.

On the Kewa Fields fire, crews were still working to secure the northeastern corner with water from the air and heavy equipment, Wallace said. The fire is estimated at 8,881 acres. Crews planned to work Thursday around the southwest side of the fire to scout containment opportunities, Wallace said.

With the weather expected to remain dry and warm all week long, in the mid-80s, fire behavior has the potential for high-intensity flare-ups.

Seyler Valley Road north of Bridge Creek was closed Thursday along with Hall Creek Road. Bridge Creek Road remains open.

Whitman County firesThe Colfax, Manning and Babbs/Malden fires started Monday, devastating the town of Malden and burning thousands of acres.

As of Thursday morning, the Colfax fire had burned 5 acres and destroyed three structures and was at 100% containment, according to Southeast Washington Interagency management team 3.

The Manning fire was 25% contained Thursday morning and had burned an estimated 3,063 acres, destroying three homes, a historical bridge and one other structure.

The Babb/Malden Fire was at zero containment Thursday morning and had burned an estimated 17,781 acres, destroying 121 homes, eight commercial properties and 94 other structures.

Crews planned to identify hazards in the town of Malden and Pine City on Thursday. The Pine City-Malden Road was closed from the west side of Pine City to the east side of Malden as of Thursday morning.

The communities of St. John, Sunset, Thornton and Ewan were all at Level 2 evacuation.

Power outages slowly resolved

About 4,000 utility customers in the area remained without power Thursday, three days after a windstorm caused outages affecting 60,000 customers.

Avista Utilities reported 2,077 customers without power as of 9:50 a.m. Thursday, down from about 3,800 the day before.

Inland Power reported 1,100 people without power as of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, down from 15,000 at the outage peak.

Northern Lights Inc., which serves much of Boundary and Bonner counties in North Idaho as well as parts of Western Montana, reported more than 848 without power Thursday morning, down from 11,500 on Monday.

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