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Stevens County fire near Rice burns one home, temporarily displaces 50 residents

UPDATED: Sat., July 17, 2021

The Goddard Fire burns in the hills between Pleasant Valley Road and Orin Rice Road early Saturday.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
The Goddard Fire burns in the hills between Pleasant Valley Road and Orin Rice Road early Saturday. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

RICE, Wash. – Firefighters worked to contain a roughly 300-acre blaze throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning.

The fire, which flared up Friday afternoon north of Rice, Wash., had been threatening numerous homes, prompting a Level 3 evacuation for 50 residents.

One firefighter was injured by a falling tree while battling the fire Saturday. The firefighter was taken off the fire line, treated on scene and did not go to the hospital, according to fire spokesperson Isabelle Hoygaard.

As of Saturday evening, the fire was estimated to be roughly 500 acres and 0% contained, Hoygaard said. However, the roughly 120 firefighters on scene were making good progress.

“We’ll make a lot of progress at night,” Hoygaard said. “We probably have another day of walking on eggshells before we’re 100% confident.”

The cause of the fire was under investigation, although Hoygaard said, “There was no lightning and if there was no lightning often it’s human caused.”

By early Saturday morning crews had made progress containing the Goddard Road Fire.

“Fire suppression efforts are going well,” said John Wirth, the incident commander for the fire.

The majority of the fire appeared to be located on the western flank of Nicholls Mountain north of Rice. Trees were crowning Saturday night but the wind was low, and the fire did not appear to be spreading.

The fire was reported early in the afternoon on Friday.

Larissa Carlson evacuated shortly after.

“It spread extremely fast, we didn’t even get any evacuation notice until we were told to leave immediately,” she said in a message. “They had a LOT of planes and helicopters working the area, we’re pretty fortunate to live so close to the river.”

One travel trailer burned, Wirth said.

The Red Cross Northwest set up locations at Methow Valley Elementary School at 18 Twin Lakes Rd. in Winthrop and Evergreen Elementary School, according to its Twitter.

On Friday, several airplanes and helicopters worked to contain the fire, according to a spokesperson.

Roughly 100 people continued to fight the fire through Friday night, according to Wirth.

Wirth, a 20-year fire veteran, said he felt good about the containment but noted that the hot and dry fuels, combined with a general lack of firefighting resources, meant there was still plenty of uncertainty.

“We’re relying heavily on volunteers,” he said. “I feel like we have a fighting chance if the winds don’t pick up.”

Winds were forecasted to be between 6 and 10 mph Saturday.

With fires burning in Oregon, California, Montana and Washington, firefighting resources are stretched thin throughout the western U.S. On a typical fire, Wirth said, each division might have 30 to 40 people on it.

Saturday morning, there were roughly 15 people in each division, he said.

“We’re all getting slammed,” he said.

So far this year there have been 500 fire starts in northeast Washington, Hoygaard said. That’s typically the number of fire starts the region sees in an entire year.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re having to make some hard decisions,” Hoygaard said. “We’re going to have to let them burn longer and burn more acres.”

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