Watermelon Hill fire now 80% contained


by KREM.com


Posted on July 19, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 22 at 11:08 AM

NEAR FISHTRAP LAKE, Wash.-- The Washington Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday morning that all level 1 and 2 evacuation notices have been downgraded to advisories.

Cooler temperatures and lower winds helped fight the Watermelon Hill fire southwest of Spokane according to fire officials.

Crews said Monday the fire had burned 11,000 acres and damaged two barns.

The Department of Natural Resources said the fire was 80-percent contained as of Tuesday morning, but crews were aggressively fighting it from the air and on land. This does not mean residents are out of danger.

One man put everything on the line to save his home. Despite warnings from his neighbors, Ronald Mills stayed at his house on Pine Spring and Calvert.

"It was like my worst nightmare,  I could see it coming towards me. It's one of the scariest feelings you'll ever have in your life," said Mills.

Mills said when the fire approached his property, he hunkered down on his lawn. He said he survived extremely thick smoke and darkness in what felt like 60 mile per hour winds.

After a few minutes, the fire stopped a quarter mile away where he said there were dozens of fire crews. Though he lost 30 acres and a barn, he said he would do it all over again. 

About 100 structures are threatened as of noon on Sunday, which is approximately the same number as Saturday night.  Bozarth had no reports of any homes damaged or destroyed.

Bozarth said the fire did not move towards populated areas overnight so fire officials as of 8 a.m. Sunday lowered the evacuation orders for almost all areas to Level 1, which means people should be aware they might need to leave the area. 

The only mandatory Level 3 evacuation order was in effect for Scroggie Road and Fishtrap Lake Resort.

Bozarth said 279 firefighters were on scene Sunday. Another incident team was ordered to come in and relieve some of the crews.

A shelter at Cheney Middle School that housed several evacuated people Saturday night was closed on Sunday. Bozarth said the shelter would be on standby in case conditions worsened.

The fire was allegedly started around 2:50 p.m. Saturday by three people shooting an explosive southwest of Spokane and forced the evacuation of rural homes near Fishtrap Lake.

The fire then jumped Fishtrap Lake after 4 p.m. to cross into Spokane County.

Fishtrap Lake resort was also evacuated Saturday afternoon.

The Cheney Rodeo Grounds is set up to take displaced livestock and horses.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said the fire was started by three people in a yellow Dodge pickup with a black stripe.

The Sheriff's Office said the suspects were shooting tanerite, which is an explosive.

Anyone with information on the suspects is asked to call the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office at 509-725-3501.