Washington Wildfire Burns More Than 100 Residences

The fire was the biggest among numerous blazes in Eastern Washington.


The number of residences destroyed by the 48,000-acre School fire near Pomeroy in southeastern Washington has climbed to 109, along with 106 outbuildings, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The fire is about 40 percent contained, and firefighters were getting some relief as temperatures dropped and humidity rose in the region, said Barrie McVey, a spokeswoman for the fire effort.

The fire was the biggest among numerous blazes in Eastern Washington that prompted Gov. Christine Gregoire on Thursday to declare a state of emergency.

The destroyed residences mostly burned last weekend, and are a mix of modest summer cabins and full-time residences. McVey could not say how many of each were destroyed. They were concentrated in areas called Baker's Pond and Rose Springs in the sparsely populated region.

Some homes were still threatened by the fire.

''Most of them have some type of protection around them,'' McVey said. ''Things are looking very good.''

Fire officials were most concerned about a blaze northeast of Davenport and west of Spokane that threatened 50 homes, 20 of which were evacuated, said Trooper Greg Pressel of the Washington State Patrol.

Firefighters were dispatched from 11 counties and about 200 were battling the 1,500-acre Harker Canyon fire, which was believed to have been started by a spark from a wheat truck on Wednesday and was reported 10 percent contained Thursday night, Pressel said.

About 1,400 firefighters were assigned to the School fire, which was burning south toward cabins in the Umatilla National Forest, said John Townsley of the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, Ore. About 100 residences, some full-time homes and some seasonal cabins, remained evacuated.

Cause of the blaze was under investigation.

Gregoire ordered state agencies to aid firefighting efforts and announced she has alerted the National Guard for a possible call-up.

''We're facing a siege of wildfires across our state,'' she told reporters at the Capitol. ''There is a significant potential for us to continue to have large fires erupting on both sides of the state.''

No fire-related injuries were reported.

Numerous lightning strikes hit northeastern Washington on Thursday, and thunderstorms were forecast for that area and the Idaho Panhandle on Friday, said Jeffrey Cote of the National Weather Service in Spokane. Lightning is a major cause of wildfires.

Six new lightning-sparked fires, the biggest 30 acres, were reported in the Methow Valley of northcentral Washington, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Robin DeMario said. All but the largest were contained Thursday, and that one was 70 percent contained.

''There's still a lot of potential for more fires to occur. We still have at least two or three more weeks of good hot weather, so folks just need to take that extra time and care when they're out in the woods or when they're driving,'' DeMario said.

Northwest of the School fire, crews fought the 4,000-acre McClane fire about 20 miles northeast of Richland. A sudden wind shift pushed the fire into a new direction Wednesday night, damaging the fire camp. The fire has burned onto the Hanford Reach National Monument north of the Columbia River and was about 40 percent contained.

The Burnt Bread fire in northcentral Washington was 75 percent contained Thursday at about 1,350 acres. The Dirty Face fire, 18 miles northwest of Leavenworth, was 70 percent contained at 1,150 acres.

The 735-acre Lick Creek fire near Cle Elum was estimated at about 90 percent containment with full containment expected by the weekend.