Yesterday, consistent east winds pushed the fire upslope along the west shore of the Columbia River. As the fire moved toward populated areas, the Kittitas County Sheriff implemented Level 3 evacuations, notifying people in more than 100 homes to leave immediately. These people and their animals were offered shelter in Ellensburg, Wash.
Although firefighting efforts could continue in some areas, smoke filled the most actively burning section of the western flank, preventing aircraft from applying retardant or water. For several hours, it was also too dangerous for ground staff to engage the fire. When extreme conditions moderated, ground crews returned to point protection, supported by 14 aircraft.
Meanwhile, excellent progress was made improving the fire lines that are parallel to the wind direction. Dozers and elite fire crews constructed and widened firelines along the south and northwest flanks. Aided by long lines of retardant applied the night before, the fire front could not grow beyond those boundaries. Over the entire fire, containment has reached 25%.
A night shift was deployed for structure protection, line construction and patrolling the lines that are in place.
The priority of work today continues to be along the southern and western flanks to confine the fire. Significant resources have been assigned to those sections, with more crews and engines arriving today to help strengthen existing fire lines and construct new ones to close gaps. Hotshot crews intend to burn-out and enhance firelines in the upper part of the western flank. Strings of timber that have caught fire must be cut off so fire cannot continue moving uphill to the west. Dozers and hand crews are working along the south. Engines from around the state continue their assignment to protect homes and structures. Six helicopters, two single engine airtankers (SEATs) and two retardant planes are standing by to drop water and retardant to slow the spread of the fire and extinguish hot spots as needed, where visibility and weather allow.
All fire personnel continue to watch the weather closely. Steep canyons and the Columbia River can funnel and concentrate winds. The area is under Red Flag Warnings for thunderstorm activity with the potential for dry lightning until 11 p.m. tonight. Although lightning could start more fires, the larger concern is the erratic winds that come with thunder cells and push the fire in unpredictable directions.
A public meeting will occur at 6 p.m. tonight at Central Washington University’s Student Union Recreation Center Ballrooms B&C, second floor, 400 East University Way, Ellensburg.
People who are affected by smoke can obtain current air quality monitoring information is available online from the Washington State Department of Ecology at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/.
Fire Facts – Thursday, August 1, 2013 – 0900 HOURS
Fire Size: approximately 72,000 acres Percent Contained: 25%
Evacuations: In effect in Kittitas and Chelan Counties County. Numerous road closures in the fire vicinity. Red Cross Shelter at Mercer Creek Church, 1407 North E Street, Ellensburg. An animal shelter is available at the Kittitas Valley Event Center. For more information contact the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center 509
Fuels: Grass, brush, with timber at the higher elevations
Air Resources: One light, four medium, and one heavy helicopter. Two SEATs. Two air tankers. Two small air attack coordination planes.
Total Personnel: Approx. 700