The dangers of flames and smoke continue to pose a threat to communities in Yakima and Kittitas counties, as firefighters work to contain a growing wildfire that started near Evans Canyon.
Public information officers with Northwest Incident Management Team Number 12 said the flames were 10% contained as of Thursday afternoon.
The fire spread across more than 52,000 acres, destroying five homes and several outbuildings. Residents of about 900 homes are under evacuation orders.
More than 440 firefighters are facing temperatures in the mid-90s, but winds are not as strong as they were earlier in the week when the fire grew rapidly in size.
Ginger and James Brand live north of Selah in the country—one of the several communities listed as a Level 3 Evacuation Area, meaning residents are required to leave for shelter. The couple left their home earlier in the week.
“Went back to check on the house and see if it was still there. And, we’re used to being outside, We work outside all day. The smoke was so bad I couldn’t hardly breathe,” said James Brand.
His wife, Ginger, said her neighborhood looked like Armageddon.
“The end of the world kind of because you’re going into this smoke, dark smoke. And, it just feels like, I don’t know how to explain it. It just feels like the end of the world is coming,” she said.
Photo credit: Yakima County Fire District #5
The couple parked their RV for shelter at the Central Washington State Fair while their two horses and mule are safe inside a barn at the fairgrounds. Kathy Kramer, president and CEO of the Central Washington Fair Association, said this is the time of year when they’re deep in state fair planning. Though it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic – they’re still finding ways to serve families and their livestock.
“There’s a lot of need out there and boy anything we can do, we’re going to use these assets to give back to the community,” said Kramer. “It was another way to continue to give back to the community. If we weren’t going to be able to bring the community here for the fair, then let’s do what we can to support them.”
More space in the RV lot and barns at the fairgrounds is available for those seeking shelter from the wildfires. The Brands said they were comfortable at the fairgrounds don’t plan to go back home until its safe…that is if their property survives the flames.
“If it burns, it burns. We have our family, our animals. If it burns, we have insurance,” said James.
While their animals stay in shelter, the couple said they are taking advantage of their time away from the smoke.
“Actually, it’s a lot like vacation because we really haven’t had a vacation for several years,” said Ginger.
The public information officers said firefighters prepared for an intentional burnout operation, Thursday evening. The planned event would talk place east of Mount Clemens in an effort to tame the wildfire. Officials said the event would look a bit dramatic and want people to be aware of the situation. Most people in Naches will see smoke from the burnout and along Old Naches Highway.