Jolly Mountain Fire: Evacuated homeowners told it will be a 'long-duration' fight to contain blaze

CLE ELUM, Wa. --- Nearly three weeks after lightning sparked dry terrain in Kittitas County,  the Jolly Mountain Fire remains zero percent contained.

About 400 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has burned an estimated 10,532 acres as of Thursday night. The fire is 11 miles northwest of Cle Elum.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued to about 154 homeowners. Officials said of the 154 homes evacuated, half were primary homes and the other half were cabins and vacation homes.

On Thursday night, concerned home owners like Van and Rosa Peterson listened closely as fire officials, holding an informational meeting, told homeowners to prepare for the long haul.

“I’m going to talk to them and ask for permission to stay and defend the cabin,” said Van.

They evacuated their historic cabin in the Wenatchee National Forest Thursday.

Plenty of others packed up Monday.

“We’ve never had any level of evacuation before,” said Patty Daniels – who’s been watching helicopters loading water from her deck off Lake Cle Elum.

“You can’t do anything. It’s like sit and wait,” said Robert Webster.

It might be a while -- but that’s not stopping them from trying to protect their property.

“Your role right now is to be ready to evacuate,” said Carolyn Bergland with Kittitas Fire District 7.

Incident commander Tim Roide told residents that dangerous terrain and difficult weather conditions forced fire crews to take an “indirect” strategy.

“One thing I’d just like to be honest about is -- this is going to be a long-duration incident,” Roide said.

Crews continued setting contingency lines Thursday, waiting for the fire to come to them at safer locations.

“We will not probably get the resources that we need to on the ground to contain this fire at least in the short term, Roide said. “Really we need a change in Mother Nature.”

Resources that are stretched thin across the Northwest, with nearly two dozen other fires in Oregon and Washington, are all competing for the same limited resources.