Firefighters gain ground on 49,000-acre fire
Crews strengthened lines around a 49,000-acre wildfire burning in southeastern Washington as fire officials prepared for warmer, drier weather...
The Associated Press
POMEROY — The 49,000-acre School fire in southeastern Washington was the only major fire in the state that remained uncontained today.
The Harker Canyon fire west of Spokane was declared 100 percent contained this morning. The fire, about nine miles west of Davenport and 150 miles north of the School fire, had burned 1,566 acres.
About 300 firefighters were fortifying the fire lines and putting out hot spots. The fire, which started Wednesday, burned through grass, sagebrush and tree-filled ravines.
There were 1,560 people working on the School fire and that number was dropping, spokesman Julian Rhinehart said. High temperatures were expected to get higher and low humidity was expected to get lower on Monday, he said.
The fire was 65 percent contained Monday, he said. There was no containment estimate yet.
"We have two miles of line left to build but those are a couple of rugged miles," Rhinehart said.
More than 200 structures — 109 residences and 106 outbuildings - have been destroyed by the fire.
Before people can return to their homes, hot spots and flames must be squelched; roads must be cleared of dangerously unstable trees and downed power lines; and there cannot be a high "reburn" potential, or likelihood of more burning in the area.
Demobilization of fire crews will continue to escalate, he said. A low-pressure weather system was expected Wednesday, bringing the possibility of both rain and lightning, Rhinehart said.
Darcy Brenner, 26, who was out of town when the fire started Aug. 5, returned two days later and found nothing left of her home but a cement foundation and twisted metal.
Her father and grandfather built the home around the time Brenner was born and she had recently been living there year-round.
"It wasn't just a house, it was a life. It was my life," Brenner said, recalling how she rode motorcycles around the home and played in nearby trees.
"Pretty devastating," said Doug Young, 49, as he flipped through photos he'd taken of his 32-year-old home. All that remained was a brick fireplace and a portion of the chimney.
The fire destroyed the family cabin of Ramona Scoggin-McDowell, 59, of Kennewick, who grew up in Pomeroy. She said her family would visit the cabin on weekends and go deer hunting.
"Part of that history's gone," Scoggin-McDowell said. "History's important in a small community."
At the Pioneer Eatery, owner April Cikity has been busy feeding firefighters who come for a hot meal. In the past week she's stayed open late to serve all the crews.
"We told them we'd feed them all and would not go home until they'd eaten," Cikity said.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.