RAINBOW LAKE, Wash. -- Virtually no rain for nearly two months has made Mason County tinder dry, helping a wildfire grow to more than 200 acres north of Shelton.
Officials said smoke from the fire that sparked Thursday has created a smoky haze in the area. Mason County health officials are encouraging elderly, young and pregnant residents to stay indoors due to the poor air quality created by the fire.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources planned to take command of the incident Friday, bringing in more resources to help fight the fire, currently 30-percent contained. Fire crews named the wildfire the Power Line No. 2 fire because it threatens a Bonneville Power Administration transmission line that feeds electricity to Shelton.
The state lands commissioner said Washington hasn't seen wildfire conditions like this in October in a lifetime. The region has received only about 0.003 inches of rain since August.
"I don't remember the last time I was on a fire in Western Washington, let alone this time of year, with our breath showing and freezing temperatures," said fire information officer Sarah Foster.
About 100 homes in the Rainbow Lake area are still threatened, but no evacuations are taking place. As many as 12 homes in the Johns Creek area were evacuated overnight, but residents were allowed to return home and were watching the fire closely.
A red flag warning remains in effect on the west side of the Cascades. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for critical fire danger Thursday and Friday. Forecasters expect dry east winds to last through Saturday afternoon.
The fire started around 2 p.m. near Mason Lake Road and McQuinn/Prairie Road. It's not yet known what sparked the fire.
Washington extended a statewide burn ban until October 15.
Fire crews have sent bulldozers to create fire lines and fire choppers were dumping 300-gallon buckets of water from nearby Rainbow Lake on the fire's hot spots in an effort to douse the flames.
Some residents evacuated, while others opted to stay put. Some turned on the sprinklers on their roofs and hoped for the best.
"My heart was pounding. It seems like I couldn't get here fast enough," said Mike Lucas, who rushed home when he got a call from his wife. The Lucases packed up some of their belongings and left the area.