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August 2, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Wind shift aids Central Washington firefighters

Shifting winds overnight provided welcome assistance for more than 800 firefighters battling the state’s largest wildfire, with officials hoping to complete a 30-mile line around the 80,000-acre Colockum Tarps fire today.

In other areas east of the Cascades, fire agencies welcomed a summer rain, but were closely watching for any new lightning-caused fires.

At midday Friday, residents were being allowed back into some of the areas the Colockum Tarps fire had threatened in Chelan County, while some areas in Kittitas County remained under evacuation.

At its peak, the fire threatened 100 homes in the two counties.  Despite earlier reports that some homes had been lost, fire officials today said only three outhouses had burned.  Aerial retardant drops were credited with saving dozens of homes.

The fire, which began last Saturday, had been fed by winds that pushed it up dry canyons on the Cascades’ eastern foothills. Within the last day, winds reversed direction, blowing the fire back toward areas already burned, said Cindy Bork, a spokeswoman for the Interagency Incident Management Team.

The weather also assisted crews at the state’s second-largest active fire, the 27,000-acre Mile Marker 28 fire northeast of Goldendale,  Klickitat County, which began July 24.  By Friday morning, crews had completed a line around the fire and were checking the fire’s perimeter with heat-detection equipment.  Evacuated residents have been allowed to return.

Bruce Livingston, spokesman for the fire-management team, said some areas got up to an inch of rain and hail Thursday night and Friday morning, helping quell the fire in those spots.

Causes of both fires remain under investigation.

Comments | More in Environment, General news, Weather Beat | Topics: Chelan, Kittitas, wildfire

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