Klickitat County fire reaches 61,000 acres, families forced to evacuate

Jul 27, 2023, 4:20 PM | Updated: 4:24 pm

Klickitat county fire...

(Photo from Klickitat County Emergency Management)

(Photo from Klickitat County Emergency Management)

Update: Since Jul. 21, the fire has burned over 61,000 acres due to the recent high winds. That’s an area larger than the entire city of Seattle.

A fire of more than 60,000 acres has quickly spread across Klickitat County. The Newell Road Fire has now caused evacuations in the area.

Emergency Management is now telling residents east of Dot Road to Alder Creek to evacuate the area if they have not already done so. Residents past Alder Creek are told to be prepared in the event of an evacuation.

More on WA fires: Deer take refuge near wind turbines as fire scorches Washington state land

An unknown number of people have evacuated their homes and cabins east of Goldendale because of a wildfire. The fire started around 3:35 p.m. Friday on Newell Road near Bickleton and has now grown to more than 61,000 acres, covering at least 20 miles of land.

On Tuesday, firefighters said 20% of the fire had been contained and evacuation orders are still in effect for Cleveland, Bickleton, and Goodnoe Stations.

FEMA is now sending federal funds to help fight what officials are calling a life-threatening situation.  This authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75% of the state’s eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating, and controlling designated fires.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at Grandview Middle School in Yakima County. There will be food and cots for those in need.

Officials said how the fire started is still currently unclear.

“It’s important we bring the community together to help everyone understand what is being done to protect lives and property and prevent further damage as this wildfire grows,” Rep. Gina Mosbrucker said in a prepared statement. “We want to be available to answer questions and help inform residents of what they can expect and what they should be doing to protect themselves and their families.”

Washington State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said that western Washington has already had far more early-season fires than average. The dry weather means extreme conditions, and Washington is considered the highest risk in the country for severe fires through the fall.

“Conditions in our state over the last week have been some of the worst we’ve experienced this year,” Franz said. “We saw how quickly the Newell Road Fire surged across more than 80 square miles in Klickitat County, and we’ve yet to reach the peak of fire season here in Washington. I am urging people to please do their part and support our heroic firefighters by being one less spark out on the landscape.”

More on Seattle fires: 7 fires in 7 days: Fire officials seeing rise in arsons in Seattle

All or parts of 12 counties have just been moved into “drought emergency” status. May and June of this year ranked as the fourth warmest and 11th driest such period since 1895, ecology officials said. July and August are Washington state’s driest months, and the National Weather Service’s long-range forecast shows warmer-than-normal temperatures and below-average rainfall through October.

“This drought is already harming Washington communities, businesses, and farms, and it’s another sign of the damage that climate change is causing to our state,” Washington State Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson said in the statement, adding that the state needs to prepare for a drier future.

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Klickitat County fire reaches 61,000 acres, families forced to evacuate