20,500-acre Grant County wildfire finally nears end
After days of burning through Grant County, responders finally have the over 20,500-acre fire mostly under control.
Officials say the fire is now 65 percent contained. All roads in the area have been reopened, and all evacuation orders are lifted, meaning people are free to return to their homes. Numerous homes in the area were evacuated earlier this week, while scores of others were put on notice to be ready to leave at any moment.
The fire will be turned over to local Grant County firefighters by Saturday. From there, they’ll monitor the perimeter for the next week to ensure the fire doesn’t reignite.
No homes were damaged in the fire, and no one was reported injured.
Over the course of the fire, the state deployed two helicopters, two small planes, 20 firefighters, and two strike teams of engines to tackle the blaze. The state fire marshal’s office approved mobilized units to help, with as many as 400 personnel on hand throughout.
Todd Welker with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources noted that the Grant County fire has been a grassland fire, which is different than forest fires. They are common in the Columbia Basin this time of year, when grass dries out. Those fires burn very fast in these conditions, especially with wind helping.
“Typically, our only tactic is to hit it on the sides and try to pinch the fire off as the wind dies down,” Welker said. “These are typically two- to three-day episodes. When the wind dies down we usually catch those, put the fire out and go home.”
In addition to being the year’s first major wildfire, this was the first such incident when the sheriff’s office sent emergency notices out in Spanish as well as English. The sheriff’s office stated on its Facebook page: “We do it to warn and help protect everyone who’s in harm’s way. It’s simply the right thing to do.