NEAR ELMER CITY, Wash. -- Firefighters continue to mop up the Buffalo Lake Road Fire in Eastern Washington.
Nearly 200 firefighters have battled the wildfire, which is now 93 percent contained.
The Department of Natural Resources says specialists are using handheld heat detecting machines to identify and mark hotspots. Crews will then dig out cool those spots with shovels and water. The most difficult spots for them to mop up will be steep, rocky terrain and wooded areas.
Officials downgraded the fire early Thursday to a Level 1 meaning no evacuation orders were in place and any evacuated homeowners were allowed to return home.
Fire officials said the flames did threaten some structures, but crews were able to prevent them from spreading. Colville Tribe spokeswoman Cathy Moses said an old barn burned but homes were okay.
The fire singed roughly 11,000 acres.
Some people in the Grand Coulee and Elmer City areas wore gas masks, as thick smoke and ash make it hard for them to breathe throughout the week. Others said the smoke stung their eyes.
“It was exciting. We don’t need another one, that’s for sure. But you know, all day long, inhaling that smoke-- That’s why we are wearing masks now. Our noses were running,” Ed Haven of Coulee Dam said.
Fire crews from four different departments were called to help in the fire including Elmer City, Douglas County, Grand Coulee and the Colville Tribal Fire Department. The Department of Natural Resources has been called in to assist.
Officials say the fire started as a result of lightning from a storm that passed through the area five days before the initial fire calls.
Authorities in Okanogan County said they started getting calls about the fire around 6 p.m. last Tuesday from Peter Dan Road, just outside of the city.
The population of Elmer City was 238 people at the 2010 census. It is located on WA-155 in Okanogan County.