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7,800 acres burned

Highway is blocked, with no detour


Scott Hunter

The fire Wednesday morning from Crown Point overlooking Coulee Dam

The wildfire burning since Tuesday evening above Coulee Dam has scorched 7,800 acres so far, but only burned one old barn.

No other structures have been lost, thanks to firefighters fending off the flames literally at the edge of their properties in some cases.

Three homes were evacuated near Buffalo Lake Road. Others in parts of Coulee Dam and Elmer City have been told they should be ready to go, just in case.

The Star received one unconfirmed report that an apartment complex in Coulee Dam was evacuated by Colville Tribal Police.

Public Information Officer Kathy Moses, speaking for the Mt. Tolman Fire Control Center, said all structures in the towns along the fires western perimeter are protected, and a dozer line is protecting the north edge of the fire that has burned from McGinnis Lake to the waters of Lake Roosevelt, from Coulee Dam nearly to Swawilla Basin on the lake.

Moses said communication towers on the top of the hill above Coulee Dam were protected by a dozer line.

But the fire burned to the very edge of town this afternoon. The National Park Service evacuated their headquarters for the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, sending personell to work out of the Spring Canyon office.

A few hundred feet away, the fire burned to the edge of Coulee Dam’s water filtration plant.

Protecting lands to the east will be a problem tonight, Moses said.

Just before 2 a.m. winds this reporter estimated at 20-30 mph billowed the flames into what firefighter Archie Dennis described as a “fire race.” Flames looked like a line of race horses pulsing into fresh fodder.

At 7 p.m. tonight firefighters were protecting the Highway Tire building with the fire headed right for it. Structures were directly threatened in Elmer City, and firefighters were hampered by traffic coming through blockades. Some complained on radio of cars running over fire hoses across the highway. People in eight cars inside the firefighting lines are not being allowed to leave.

At this point, 7:41 p.m., the fire is on road, which is blocked with no detour available.

Firefighters were also clamping down on letting anyone through that stretch of SR 155.

Tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., a Type II fire management team from Olympia will take command of the fight.

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