BONNEY LAKE, Wash. - State Route 410 runs between Sumner and Bonney Lake where some of the most severe damage is from the Sumner Grade Fire. The Washington State Department of Transportation closed the highway from 166th Avenue E. to Veterans Memorial Drive E. on September 7th.
Closing 410 is causing more drivers to navigate through neighborhoods that haven’t seen an influx of traffic before. Some people who live near the highway are worried.
“Heavy trucks, cars. Anybody could throw a cigarette out, not that we want to blame that, but you just never know. A spark, anything and everything is really dry,” said Natalie Bowie, who lives in Bonney Lake in a Level 3 Evacuation Zone.
Dry weather conditions had Bowie watering her trees and landscape along the busy street to prevent her property from catching fire.
“We had a lot of debris and dry stuff all over, and so we’ve cleaned up the backyard. We’re in the process of finishing the front. I’ve been watering things down all day yesterday and today just in case,” said Bowie.
As of Thursday afternoon, the fire remained at only 20 percent contained, but fortunately, flames did not spread beyond the 800 acres already burned. The East Pierce Fire and Rescue chief said if wind conditions stay calm like they were Thursday, crews hope to put out the bulk of the flames within the next 10 days. That still, however, leaves people in evacuation zones with lots of questions on how to move forward with their lives.
Bowie and her family recently returned from evacuating earlier this week. They still have their cars fully loaded.
“We’re packed and ready to go if we need to. I’m watching everything on social media, I’m hooked into the Bonney Lake Police Department, Fire and Rescue,” said Bowie.
Both agencies are pumping out information on social media as quickly as possible, including questions to the Bonney Lake Police Department about looting in evacuation areas. In a post to Twitter, police said they haven’t had any reports of theft, but extra patrols are in the evacuated neighborhoods.
“Packed up as much as I could and headed up to my brothers and we’ve all hunkered down there and we’re just waiting,” said Keri Ortega, who lives in Sumner in a Level 2 Evacuation Zone.
Though Level 2 only requires residents to standby for evacuations, Ortega said she left her home on Tuesday just to be safe than sorry. The uncertainty of what’s next, however, has her full of emotions.
“All over the place—little bit of fear, little bit of ‘Okay, nice. We’re all together.’ We’re just trying to take it one day at a time, keep the kids calm,” said Ortega.
Staying calm through the smoke isn’t easy, but people in the community trust they are in capable hands of their fire fighters.
“A lot of homes saved. They’ve been informing us of what we should be doing and not doing,” said Bowie. “We appreciate as far as our fire fighters, police officers and anybody else helping out in the community. We really are grateful for that.”
Evacuation orders did not change on Thursday. Fire fighters said they are actively working on plans to try to reopen some neighborhoods and get people back in their homes. Those efforts are still in the works right now, but officials said there could be an update on evacuation orders as early as Friday.
State Route 410 will be closed into next week because the fire is still very dangerous. That date could change since the wildfire still isn’t under control. Though fire fighters hope to put out most of the flames within the next several days, they explained fully extinguishing hot spots could take a couple months because of all the terrains and slopes they’re working through. Puget Sound Energy also has its work cut out on the highway trying to fix the several power lines that are down from high winds.
WSDOT and first responders are urging people not to drive around any road closure in the area. This is for travelers’ safety and crews’ safety, giving them enough space to make repairs.