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Wildfire closes I-90, threatens Washington town

A fast-moving wildfire closed the main Seattle-to-Spokane interstate freeway and threatened a small Central Washington town early Tuesday, while an earlier fire west of Wenatchee appears on the decline.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on July 10, 2018 12:06PM

Vantage, Wash., with about 200 people, was evacuated late Monday. Interstate 90 between Vantage and Ellensburg was also closed by the wind-whipped wildfire.

Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office

Vantage, Wash., with about 200 people, was evacuated late Monday. Interstate 90 between Vantage and Ellensburg was also closed by the wind-whipped wildfire.

This aerial photo taken July 6 shows the rugged terrain in which the Little Camas Fire is burning.

Courtesy Photo

This aerial photo taken July 6 shows the rugged terrain in which the Little Camas Fire is burning.


VANTAGE, Wash. — The town of Vantage, with about 200 people, was evacuated about midnight Monday due to a wind-whipped wildfire that threatened the town and closed Interstate 90 between Vantage and Ellensburg.

Kittitas County sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door in the Columbia River town telling people to leave as firefighters protected structures. Just one small structure was lost, the sheriff’s office said.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, the fire, called the Ryegrass Coulee Fire, was estimated at about 1,000 acres and had burned a 4.5-mile stretch across I-90, which is the major route between Spokane and Seattle. I-90 was closed east of the Vantage bridge over the Columbia River and at a point east of Ellensburg.

Motorists were advised to detour to Wenatchee and Blewett Pass or Yakima and White Pass.

More than 400 guardrail posts along the freeway were burned, the sheriff’s office said.

A Red Cross shelter for evacuees was opened at the George Community Hall east of Vantage.

The fire was reported shortly before 11 p.m. Monday, July 9, by I-90 motorists who spotted it north of the freeway and about three miles west of Vantage.

Meanwhile, the 317-acre Little Camas Fire, about eight miles west of Wenatchee and six miles south of Cashmere, was 52 percent contained and staying within firelines despite high winds as of Tuesday morning.

Crews are working to save Weyerhaeuser timber and a rare plant, the Oregon Checker Mallow, said Rick Acosta, spokesman for an interagency effort led by the state Department of Natural Resources, Chelan County Fire District 6 and the U.S. Forest Service.

Most of the steep terrain involved in the fire is Weyerhaeuser land. A small amount is within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, he said.

The fire was reported about noon July 5 and was attacked initially primarily by aircraft. Steep, rugged terrain made ground efforts difficult. High winds the evening of July 6 and 9 were challenges, but firefighters were able to keep the fire within firelines, which were established on all sides.

Camas Meadows Bible Camp and three homes within two miles of the fire were on evacuation standby. The cause is not known and is under investigation, Acosta said.

On Tuesday, firefighters were reinforcing fire lines, mopping up hot spots and watching for rolling burning logs and winds. Full containment is estimated for July 20.

A total of 416 personnel remained involved in the effort Tuesday. They were divided into 13 crews, down from a peak of 442. About eight aircraft were involved but by Tuesday were reduced to three. Twenty-three fire engines, four bulldozers and eight water tenders rounded out primary equipment.



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