Firefighters converge on 28,000-acre Taylor Bridge fire


KING 5 News

Posted on August 14, 2012 at 6:58 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 2:28 AM

Resources from all over Washington have been called to help stop the Taylor Bridge Wildfire, a wildland fire that grew from 2,800 acres to more than 20,000 in a matter of hours.

Among the hundreds of firefighters on fire lines Tuesday are 140 inmates from the Washington Department of Corrections, ordered there by Governor Chris Gregoire.

Wind whipped the flames overnight, destroying more than 60 homes and as many as 40 other buildings.

Houses from Cle Elum to Thorp have been evacuated. As winds shifted toward pockets of subdivisions between Interstate 90 and Highway 97, people in about 450 homes awoke in the middle of the night to firefighters at their doorstep.

There is no containment line yet.

Click for a detailed map of the Taylor Bridge Wildfire

A state of emergency could be declared at any moment, in which the National Guard could be called up to assist, though Governor Gregoire has not yet authorized it.

A bundle of other resources have been devoted to the fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the use of federal money to fight the flames. It's also the top priority of the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Washington State Patrol and the Emergency Management Department.

The inmates joining firefighters are from Cedar Creek, Larch and Olympic Corrections Centers reports the Seattle Times.

Stunning fire photos from Daily Record newspaper - click here

Central Washington University will help by housing dozens of evacuees and firefighters. Some residents still in their homes have also opened their doors to state crews.

The additional aid is much needed by regional firefighters who worked all night trying to stop the fire from spreading.

"We're all tired, but we want to go up and protect those homes," said firefighter Brian Cavanaugh with Kittitas County Fire District 1, who hadn't had a break since the fire ignited.

Construction crews on the Taylor Bridge Project caused the initial brush fire Monday, according to Rick Scriven of Eastside Fire and Rescue (click for picture of the bridge).

Sparking near Taylor Road and SR 10, the fire began as only about 150 acres. By midnight it had grown to 16,000 acres and by 2:00 a.m. Tuesday it had surpassed 20,000 acres, consuming homes and buildings in its path.

Watch: SkyKING video over burned homes, structures

One firefighter said he had never seen a fire move so quickly. As a result of a rain in June followed by drier conditions in July, the east slopes of the Cascades are filled with combustible tinder allowing the fire to burn hot and quick.

Wind and temperatures above 90 degrees are expected to be a factor in the firefight over the next several days, however lightning may not be in the forecast until the weekend. A more detailed wildfire weather forecast can be found here.

Evacuations are in: Bettas Valley, Swauk Valley, Teanaway, and homes on the westside of SR97 between SR97 and Swauk, SunEast, Upper Reecer Creek, Green Canyon, areas northeast of Ellensburg (specifically homes with no green/defendable space around them).

An emergency shelter is at the Cle Elum Centennial Senior Center, 719 East Third Street, Cle Elum, 509-674-7530. An emergency animal shelter for farm animals has been set up at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds.

The fire has burned roughly 31 square miles, which equates to about the size of the City of Bellevue.

The Kittitas Community Connect Facebook page has helped many evacuees stay in contact with one another.

How you can help: Click here for info

KING 5's Lindsay Chamberlain, Jake Whittenberg, Roberta Romero, Meg Coyle, Chris Daniels contributed to this report.