State increases fire danger rating in Eastern Washington
SUNNYSIDE — With temperatures soaring above 100 and dry conditions, the state has increased the fire danger rating for Eastern Washington.
Beginning yesterday, the state instituted burn restrictions for lands — public and private — protected by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Private lands outside of a fire district are often protected by Natural Resources and subject to the burn ban rules, officials said.
In Yakima County, the state raised the fire danger level from moderate to high.
The same rating change occurred in Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Grant, Klickitat, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin, Whitman and Adams counties.
The change means campfires are now only allowed in designated campgrounds, officials said.
Tomorrow, the rating will also increase in Spokane, Okanogan, Stevens and Lincoln counties.
The change comes as fire crews are managing multiple fires in Eastern Washington, including at least three larger blazes in Yakima and Douglas counties.
The burn ban will remain in place until further notice, state officials said.
Updates on burn bans are available by calling 800-323-BURN.
VERNITA Fire crews have slowed the advance of the Silver Dollar Fire despite rising temperatures.
As of yesterday, fire officials said the fire was 85 percent contained, having already destroyed 23,350 acres.
The number of personnel on the ground has been reduced to 282 firefighters, officials said, noting the blaze continues to burn in dry grass and sage brush.
Meanwhile, a new wildfire has popped up in North-Central Washington.
Fire crews were being dispatched to the area between East Wenatchee and Orondo, where the new blaze was growing in steep terrain along the Columbia River.
Information on that fire was not immediately available.
Back on the Silver Dollar Fire, crews were focusing their efforts along the Midway Substation Road near the Columbia River.
On Tuesday, fire crews patrolled the perimeter and extinguished smoldering debris 50-100 feet inside the fire’s active edge.
Authorities said there are still pockets of grass and sagebrush that have not burned inside fire containment lines. But most of those unburned areas were along the steep rocky bluffs above the river.
Meanwhile, authorities are also looking into a drone flight over the fire area Tuesday that halted aerial water and fire-retardant drops.
“A drone intrusion occurred over the fire area yesterday morning at about 11:20 am, and as a precautionary measure, all aircraft assigned to the fire was temporarily grounded,” a statement by the incident command said. “If a drone is detected flying over or near a wildfire, this intrusion will prevent airtankers from dropping fire retardant, helicopters from dropping water and other aircraft from performing wildfire suppression missions until it can be confirmed that the drone has left the area and fire managers are confident it will not return.”
Fire crews were also dealing with a crash involving one of their own along state Highway 240, near the intersection of state Highway 24.
“A vehicle accident occurred near the fire area when a local driver struck a firefighter’s vehicle,” a statement from incident command said.
No further details were released.
Looking ahead, fire crews will continue shoring up firelines and mopping up hotspots.
Fire officials said smoke will continue to be an issue in the area of the fire.
“Team 2 encourages residents and visitors to drive cautiously,” official said.
And with temperatures expected to remain above 100 degrees for at least the next three days, officials are advising motorists to be vigilant.
“With hot and dry weather forecasted for the region, any new fire start has the potential to spread rapidly and exhibit extreme fire behavior,” officials said.
The Silver Dollar Fire started as two separate blazes about noon Sunday near the Silver Dollar Cafe, 30501 state Highway 24, north of Sunnyside.
The two blazes quickly grew together into the second largest currently active fire in the state.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.