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Originally published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 4:32 PM

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Extent of Central Wash. fire damage still unknown

Hundreds of firefighters were using planes, helicopters and bulldozers to battle a large central Washington blaze, but it could be some time before authorities know exactly how extensive the property damage is.

Associated Press

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CLE ELUM, Wash. —

Hundreds of firefighters were using planes, helicopters and bulldozers to battle a large central Washington blaze, but it could be some time before authorities know exactly how extensive the property damage is.

Incident commander Rex Reed said Wednesday afternoon that the Taylor Bridge Fire had scorched about 22,000 acres.

He said by the end of Wednesday about 900 people would be working to suppress the fire, aided by three heavy air tankers, six helicopters and bulldozers.

Authorities say at least 60 primary residences have been destroyed, but conditions are still too dangerous to come up with an exact count.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Crews fighting a large blaze in central Washington hope to increase containment levels by Wednesday evening but are keeping a wary eye on weather conditions later in the week.

The fire near Cle Elum has burned dozens of homes and caused about 900 people to leave their homes. Incident commander Rex Reed said he was hopeful containment would increase from 10 percent to 25 percent later in the day.

"We're at 800 people assigned to this fire now, so we should have a good day," he said of efforts to battle the Taylor Bridge Fire, which has scorched 28,000 acres, or more than 43 square miles. The fire broke out Monday at a bridge construction site.

Authorities are worried, however, about hotter, drier conditions Thursday and Friday, and the possibility of lightning Saturday.

Meanwhile, a brush fire not far from Grand Coulee Dam in Eastern Washington had burned about 6 square miles and an old barn outside of Elmer City.

Cathy Moses of the Colville Tribe said the fire is threatening nine structures near the town near Grand Coulee Dam. The fire broke out Tuesday evening and has closed Highway 155 near Elmer City. No cause has been found.

Things went well with the Taylor Ridge blaze overnight, Reed said. Firefighters were focusing on preventing the fire from threatening a housing development near Cle Elum and moving into a stand of timber.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated in the rural community on the east side of the Cascades, about 75 miles east of Seattle.

State and local officials said 60 primary residences have burned, as well as other structures. Officials hoped some affected residents would be allowed back in Wednesday.

No injuries have been reported.

A number of homes that burned were along Bettas Road near Cle Elum. An Associated Press photographer witnessed about eight people using hand tools Tuesday to cut a fire line in an attempt to protect one home.

The grass fire was suddenly whipped up by the wind and came directly toward the group, causing them to scatter. Everyone made it away safely, and the fire slowed, allowing a man with a water truck to dampen the perimeter of the house just in time to save it from the blaze.

Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency for Kittitas and Yakima counties in response to the blaze. That provided air support from the Washington National Guard.

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Associated Press photographer Elaine Thompson contributed to this report.

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