Construction work by a bridge crew has apparently ignited a fast-moving, fast-growing wildfire burning out of control in central Washington State.
The wind-whipped Taylor Bridge Wildfire blaze grew tenfold in a few hours between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning after destroying more than 60 homes about 75 miles east of Seattle.
|Fire officials sought to determine the cause of the blaze as hundreds of firefighters worked to contain it.|
Hundreds more homes were evacuated as more than 800 firefighters fought Wednesday (Aug. 15) to gain an upper hand on the fire, which was threatening a housing development near Cle Elum and a stand of timber. An emergency animal shelter for farm animals was set up at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds.
Authorities said Wednesday that the blaze was about 10 percent contained.
Bridge Construction Cited
The fire started about 1 p.m. Monday along Highway 10 at the Taylor Road junction where the bridge was being rebuilt. A video shows the bridge under construction.
Washington State Department of Transportation spokesman Brian White told the local Fox television station that the fire began where contractor Conway Construction, of Ridgefield, WA, was placing rebar.
Patti Ann Stover / KHQ
|What began as a brushfire about 1 p.m. Monday had spread to nearly 27,000 acres about 12 hours later.|
State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Rex Reed also told the station Tuesday night: “They (fire investigators) know where it started from; it was definitely the construction site. I talked to the chief investigator today; they anticipate having additional information in the next few days.”
Nancy Jones, a spokeswoman for a state emergency response team, noted to Reuters News Service that authorities “have no indication” that the fire “was intentional.”
Conway Construction president David Conway said in an email Wednesday: “Conway Construction Company is fully cooperating with multiple ongoing investigations. A cause of the fire has yet to be established. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered losses, those who remain in harm’s way, and those who are battling the blaze.”
Firefighters Go Door to Door
The incident began as a brushfire but, fueled by a dry July, grew to 16,000 acres by midnight and nearly 27,000 acres by 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Hundreds of people awoke to firefighters at their door, ordering them out of their homes and out of the way of the oncoming fire, the Seattle Times reported.
|By Wednesday, hundreds of endangered homes and livestock had been evacuated.|
“We were told around 2:30 this morning to get out as soon as possible. We grabbed our St. Bernard dog ‘Big’ and drove down to the roadblock,” Tammy Damore told the paper.
Summer of Wildfires
The massive wildfire was one of more than a dozen burning across the heat-seared West. The blazes have burned about a half-million acres this summer across Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California and about 6 million acres this year, authorities said.
Firefighters with Kittitas County Fire District 1 were among many crews who worked through the night without relief.
They included firefighter Brian Cavanaugh, who told one newspaper that he had had no break since the fire began.
“We’re all tired, but we want to go up and protect those homes,” said Cavanaugh.
Gov. Christine Gregoire has declared a state of emergency in two affected counties.
“All Washingtonians stand with those who have lost their homes and property in the Taylor Bridge Fire,” Gregoire said in a written statement. “The destruction overnight is a stark reminder of how quickly and unexpectedly wildfire can move.”