Firefighters aiming for 25% containment of Taylor Bridge Wildfire

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by KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on August 15, 2012 at 7:25 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 2:28 AM

The weather cooperated with firefighters battling the Taylor Bridge Wildfire Wednesday morning, giving them a chance to contain more the fire.

"It's a good day to fight fire," said Mark Clemens with Emergency Management. "More resources are coming in."

"Pretty good note on the weather - it's not getting worse," said Clemens. "Yesterday there were gusts up to 35 mph."

See the weather forecast for fire zone

Though winds were not expected to be as problematic, low humidity and heat will continue to be major factors. Temperatures were expected to remain in the low 90s on Wednesday, but there is no immediate threat of lightning.

Authorities said they are worried about hotter, drier conditions Thursday and Friday and the possibility of lightning Saturday. A red flag warning has been issued on the west side of the state for Wednesday.

Eight aircraft were scheduled to fly the 28,077-acre fire Wednesday, dropping water and retardant, including tankers from Moses Lake and Canada, and National Guard helicopters. Aerial resources were expected to work along the fire zone's northern border, dropping water along the perimeter where access by the fire crews is difficult.

View a detailed map of the Taylor Bridge Wildfire

About 800 firefighters are working the fire. Coordinators said they were optimistic they could have it 25 percent contained by the end of the day.

In addition to six new strike teams, a group of 145 prison inmates trained by the Washington Department of Natural Resources are helping the effort.

Firefighters are focused on protecting the Sun Light Waters area on the southern edge of the fire, the Hidden Valley area on the north edge of the fire, and from Elk Springs Road east to Robbins Road.

Construction work on the Taylor Bridge along S.R. 10 is believed to have caused the fire on Monday.

Mandatory evacuations are in Bettas Valley, as well as homes on the west side of U.S. 97 between the highway and the Swauk area.

Emergency coordinators urged the public to stay clear from the road closure area and to minimize traffic on roads accessed by fire crews.

"It was pretty amazing yesterday just watching it...[the fire] hit a particularly sappy tree and you'd watch it just explode, massive fireball," said Derrick Rucker, who lives nearby.

Wilson Creek, Alford Road, Look Road, Rustic Acres, and east of that area have reopened, allowing homeowners to return.

Town meetings on Wednesday

More than 100 structures have been destroyed by the Taylor Bridge fire, including 60 homes. Of the estimated 450 families evacuated, some haven't seen their houses in more than 24 hours, unsure whether they are still standing.

For people affected by the fire, there are two community meetings scheduled Wednesday: at 4 p.m. at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School gymnasium and 7 p.m. at Central Washington University's Student Union and Recreation Center.

Two emergency shelters are operating: 

     -- Cle Elum Centennial Senior Center, 719 E. Third Street in Cle Elum, (509) 963-1141
     -- Central Washington University, Munson Dorms, 400 E. University Way in Ellensburg,  (509) 674-7530

Animals have been evacuated to the Kittitas County Fairground. A Facebook page has been set up for people to share information and resources about pets and animals.

A state of emergency remains in effect in Kittitas and Yakima counties. Federal funds have been freed up by FEMA to help pay for the firefight.

Both U.S. 97 and S.R. 10 run directly through the fire and remain closed.

Related links:

Info on how you can help

Kittitas Community Connect Facebook page

Stunning fire photos from Daily Record newspaper - click here

Watch: SkyKING video over burned homes, structures

View photos taken of the fire on Tuesday.

Photos of the fire can be sent to KING 5 via email, Twitter, Facebook, or posted directly to KING5.com using Your News.

KING 5's Lindsay Chamberlain, Jake Whittenberg, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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