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Fire fights choke area in smoke

Updated with map


Last updated 8/11/2014 at 2:11pm


The view from the Visitor Center at Grand Coulee Dam, looking at the dam, as posted publicly on Instagram by a visitor just after 1 p.m. Sunday.

Some of the smoke choking the area from The Devil's Elbow Complex fires north of Keller may come from firefighters' efforts to battle the blaze, as they burn out fuel to deny the fire a way to spread.

It has consumed more than 17,000 acres so far and still threatens about 150 homes and 90 other structures. Highway 21 is closed and evacuations along it have extended north from Capoose Creek/Meadow to the Bear Creek campground.

More than 100 firefighters took part in a burnout operation Saturday night on the south side of McAllister Creek and plan to complete that southwestern side anchor today.

Officials said this is a crucial period for containment, and tonight firefighters will start major burnouts on the southeast flank.

"Today and tonight are critical opportunities for safe, aggressive, effective firefighting," said Larry Nickey, incident commander with Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #4.

This fire increases activity every afternoon, creating big columns of smoke and making intense pushes to the east and northeast.

"We need to strengthen our southern anchor so we can work to the north to capture an eastern containment opportunity before the fire gets past this road system," Nickey said.

More than 120 firefighters are scheduled for night shift tonight to implement this operation.

A news release from the complex said 32 residents have been evacuated along highway 21. Others have been told be ready to leave on a moment's notice.

From the release: Fuel and weather conditions remain dry, contributing to near-record-setting fire intensity. Crown fire runs, torching and complete consumption of large logs and debris remaining from a 2012 windstorm is occurring. Firefighters have been warned to be alert to potential spotting of up to one mile.

The northern portion of the fire is approaching the Twenty-five Mile Road system. As containment progresses on other divisions, that area is the next priority for significant containment line expansion. Routes have been identified, improvements have been initiated, and with the benefit of retardant to slow and hold the fire's approach, there should be time to create needed barriers to the north. The 17,098-acre fire, burning 10 miles north of Keller, continues to threaten nearly 150 homes and 90 other structures along Hwy 21 which remains closed to the public. Thirty-two residents living nearest the fire have been evacuated. Others who live near the fire have received notice to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

A community meeting on the fire is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 11 (Monday) at the Keller Community Center.

Further east, a section of Lake Roosevelt near Fruitland, Wash. is closed, along with a campground in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, where firefighters are battling the Enterprise Fire with burnouts that are likely contributing to the smokey air.

Those burnouts overnight reportedly went well on the 80-acre fire, but updates were not available by 2 p.m., Sunday.

Map of the Devil's Elbow Complex fires near Keller


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