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Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - Page updated at 05:30 p.m.
As Taylor Bridge fire slows, donations grow
By Jonathan Martin
Seattle Times staff reporter
Firefighters tackling the Taylor Bridge fire near Cle Elum hope to fully contain the 23,252-acre blaze by Monday if the weather continues to cooperate.
Crews working over the weekend held fire lines on the fire's northwest perimeter, said Jessica Payne, spokeswoman for the Taylor Bridge Fire Information Center.
"We had great progress overnight," Payne said on Sunday.
Later that night, containment was at about 47 percent, but Payne said fire managers had offered a "very optimistic forecast" for full containment by the end of Sunday. More cautiously, full containment was expected by Monday, weather permitting.
Residents can expect to see lots of smoke on Monday as crews burn a 150-foot-wide strip to help with containment.
"We need to get word out to residents" that fresh smoke plumes do not indicate a worsening of the fire, Payne said.
The fire, which started last Monday during construction work at Taylor Bridge, has destroyed 48 homes and 15 outbuildings, with a survey of damaged areas 60 percent completed. Nearly 1,000 personnel are involved in firefighting efforts.
An area south of Highway 970 and west of Highway 97 remains under mandatory evacuation, while local residents are being given limited access in a larger area to the south and east of the evacuation zone, according to the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center.
About 21 people were still living at emergency shelters in Ellensburg and Cle Elum, but the numbers continue to decline as families find other options, officials said Sunday.
Displaced livestock, which had been held at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds, have also been given temporary homes with volunteers.
No fatalities have been reported, and only a handful of livestock deaths have been reported, according to the emergency-operations center.
Two small spot fires started by lightning strikes early Sunday east of the main fire zone were quickly extinguished.
Meanwhile, donations to families affected by the fire show no signs of slowing down.
Ron Windham, a volunteer for the Cle Elum Eagles Club, said donations have filled three buildings since last week.
"You wouldn't believe the outpouring," he said. "We're getting everything from TVs to furniture to appliances to bedding and clothing, new and used."
Windham said tents, air mattresses and camping gear are in high demand.
"People still have their property, even if there's no house," he said. "I guess it gives them a place to stay, at least until winter comes."
Windham, overseeing a crew of up to 30 volunteers, said a 4-year-old boy whose family home was destroyed by fire came by a donation center on Saturday.
"He picked out a few Transformers and some Legos, then sat down on his little box and started crying," Windham said. It was too much for the grown-ups sorting the donations, and they walked outside, choking back tears, he said.
"If everything we've done the past week was for that one little boy, it will have been worth it," Windham said.
Seattle Times reporter Susan Kelleher contributed to this report. Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @susankelleher.
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