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Originally published August 4, 2013 at 6:08 PM | Page modified August 4, 2013 at 7:13 PM

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Crews getting upper hand on wildfires

Firefighters made progress on containing wildfires in Washington state over the past few days, but a forecast of hot weather means a statewide burn ban will remain in effect.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The 80,400-acre Colockum Tarps fire near Wenatchee was about 60 percent contained Sunday, state officials said.

High relative humidity, cooler temperatures and cloud cover kept fire activity down over the past couple of days, according to the Washington Incident Management Team. The likelihood, however, of increasing temperatures is forecast throughout much of Washington over the next week, and a statewide burn ban issued last week remains in effect.

The Colockum Tarps fire has been burning since July 27, through dry grass, sagebrush and timber growing in steep drainages along the western shore of the Columbia River, 11 miles southwest of Wenatchee. On July 31, easterly winds pushed the fire toward a sparsely populated areas along the Parke, Caribou and Colockum roads in Kittitas County, and the residents of 45 homes were evacuated.

According to the incident team, fire crews at the Colockum fire are waiting for drier weather to burn the remaining fuel and timber inside the containment zone.

The 1,600-acre Riverside Block Complex fire, near Omak, was still smoldering Sunday, with firefighters preventing new starts and mopping up the existing fires. The 50-acre Methow Complex fire, which was caused by lightning, was being mopped up Sunday, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. Another blaze, a 1,500-acre fire near Chelan, was almost completely contained Saturday, but it was still being monitored by fire crews, according to the coordination center.

Near Goldendale, a 27,000-acre fire continued to burn but was nearly 90 percent contained and was expected to be extinguished by Tuesday, incident officials said. The evacuation order for structures south of the fire was lifted, but concerns about smoke as a public health hazard remained.

The National Weather Service said temperatures were expected to rise into next week with a forecast for mostly sunny skies in the early part of the week.

The burn ban issued by the state Department of Natural Resources will be in effect through Sept. 30, according to state officials. The ban prohibits campfires in developed campgrounds and other recreational fires as well as prescribed burns.

Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, said last week that hot and dry conditions have made the potential for wildfire unusually high on both sides of the Cascade Mountains.

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