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August 13, 2012 at 5:05 PM

Cle Elum fire grows to more than 26,000 acres, at least 60 homes lost

Three members of the Washington Department of Natural Resources make their way into a flaming patch of woods at the scene of the Taylor Bridge Fire (Jordan Stead / The Seattle Times). View more photos.

UPDATE 8:29 A.M.| See today’s updates on the Taylor Bridge wildfire.

UPDATE 6:28 A.M.| The Kittitas County Fire District reports via Twitter that the fire is currently estimated at 26,500 acres (41 sq. miles) and more than 60 homes have been destroyed.

UPDATE 12:24 A.M.| More than 15,000 acres and at least 40 homes have burned in the Taylor Bridge Fire, a Kittitas fire official said, citing information from the Department of Natural Resources.

UPDATE 10:22 P.M.| The fire has burned more than 3,000 acres, according to  Kittitas County Fire District 7.

Contact information from people willing to donate and volunteer help to evacuees is flooding in on a Community Connect, Kittitas County Facebook page.

UPDATE 9:40 P.M.| Firefighters have stopped the fire from moving into the Reecer Creek Road area but continues to burn with zero containment, according to Kittitas County Fire District 7. The fire now stretches from Indian John Hill to Thorp on the northside of Interstate 90, according to East Pierce Fire & Rescue.

EARLIER POST

A fire near Cle Elum has burned at least 24 structures including homes and nearly 3,000 acres. Firefighters have zero containment of the blaze, now dubbed the Taylor Bridge Fire.

The fire near Highway 10 started about 1:15 p.m. and quickly spread at a rate of about 30 mph, jumping over Highway 97.

All nearby homes have been ordered to evacuate, said Richelle Risdon, spokeswoman for Kittitas County Fire District 7. Evacuation areas include Swauk Valley, Prairie Valley, Bettas Road Hidden Valley, and Ellensburg Ranches Road,. Evacuees can go to the Cle Elum Centennial Center. Animals can be taken to the Kittitas County fairgrounds in Ellensburg.

Anyone questioning whether they need to evacuate should, Risdon said.

Dry vegetation and high winds are fueling the fire on steep terrain, making it difficult for the more than 100 firefighters  on site to make headway against the wildfire, she said.

Among the properties threatened Monday was the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, which cares for seven chimps released from biomedical research. Part of its grounds were burned but the main building has been protected so far according to the sanctuary’s Facebook page.

Central Washington University is coordinating with local authorities to house evacuees, according to the Daily Record.

Several air units — three helicopters and a fixed-wing airplane — have joined the effort, Mark Grassel with state Department of Natural Resources told the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Strike teams from King County, Yakima, Selah and other areas have been called in to fight the fire and protect homes on mountains nearby, according to Risdon’s Twitter account.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Two suspicious fires were also set in the area on Saturday, Cle Elum Fire Chief Dave Campbell told the Daily Record. One set around 2:30 p.m. burned approximately 1,000 square feet before firefighters knocked it out and the other started around 5:30 p.m. and burned about 100 square feet before being knocked out.

Related: Firefighter killed as wildfires rage across West

0 Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Cle Elum, fire, Richelle Risdon

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