GRANT COUNTY, Wash.-- Lightning strikes prompted 16 fire calls early Tuesday in Grant County, in the midst of two large wildfires.
Authorities asked homeowners to pack up and head out Monday after two fires sparked near Grand Coulee. They said high winds are making firefighting extremely difficult in the area.
Multiple agencies are battling the Barker Canyon Fire and the Leahy Junction Fire. Haze from the fire forced crews to shut down State Route 174 through the area.
Early Tuesday, the Barker Canyon Fire was estimated to be around 14,000 acres and burned mostly sage and grass. The Leahy Junction Fire burned near Coulee Dam, on the boarders of Douglas and Grant counties. It also scorched mostly sage and grass. At last check, crews estimated that fire burned 13,000 acres. Though that number could increase because high wind. Authorities said lightning sparked both fires.
Crews expected wind to pick up across the area and said the fires will likely spread. Helicopters were brought in to help crews get the upper hand on the fires.
As crews work to get a handle on the fires, they said evacuations were underway for several homes near Coulee Dam. Authorities issued approximately 75 level 1 to level 3 evacuation notices. Experts asked homeowners in the area to put sprinklers on their roof and in their yards. There was no report of any injuries.
People ordered to leave were allowed to return home, but they were required to sign a “refusal to evacuate form.” The Red Cross set up a shelter at the senior center in Grand Coulee for displaced residents.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for central and eastern Washington. Warm and very dry conditions will precede a cold front that will bring strong winds through Monday.
There was on estimate released on the containment numbers for both fires.