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Fire claims homes, evacuates school


A wildfire that started last Tuesday north of an around Omak Lake is now 60 percent contained after burning two homes, more than 16,000 acres of grass and timber and eight structures, and evacuating a school.

A Washington Incident Management Team fire official stated Tuesday that they hope to turn the The St. Mary’s Mission Road Fire over to local resources within a day or two.

The fire started last Oct. 2, and shutdown Paschal Sherman Indian School for several days. Students returned to classes in the school Oct. 9.

An Incident spokesman said that the fire had burned 16,853 acres in rocky and timbered areas and was still ablaze, although not as intensely.

After a fire resource meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, fire officials released one of the eight helicopters that were battling the blaze.

Currently there are 591 personnel on the fire, and 42 fire engines, nine dozers and 15 tenders.

Two houses have been destroyed and eight additional structures have gone up in smoke.

The cause of the blaze, which started near the junction of St. Mary’s Mission Road with highway 155 near Omak, was still under investigation Tuesday, officials stated.

A chance for rain is forecast for this weekend.

“Providing for firefighter and public safety is a top priority at all times,” a fire official stated. Also the objective is to reduce the impacts on wildlife by minimizing the acres burned.

Heavy smoke caused the closure of the Columbia River Road to Omak, but it was re-opened over the weekend.

The Colville Tribes is working with the incident management team, providing personnel and equipment.

Helicopters were dipping water from Omak Lake and dumping on the southeast and eastern areas of the burn. Mop up action was taking place near the Paschal Sherman Indian School.

There were some evacuations due to the fire and several residents within the fire zone were put on alert. Tuesday, residents along Haley Creek remained at a level-two evacuation, meaning they should be ready to leave within an hour, and residents along Moomaw Road, Kartar Valley and Timentwa Flats remained at level one.

Early on, winds of 15 mph were fanning the blaze, but cooler night temperatures and an easing of the winds was helping firefighters work to get a line around the fire.

A statewide burn ban remains in effect until at least Oct. 15, declared by the governor.

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