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Regional fires flare in hot season

 

Smoke shuts down visibility on I-90 Monday from a wildfire seven miles southwest of George. - WSP Trooper Darren Wright photo

A stubborn brush fire closed Interstate-90 near George for the second straight day, but it reopened Tuesday about 10 a.m.

The fire was driven by wind gusts of 25 mph and had burned about 900 acres by Tuesday.

Winds continue to be a problem, a Grant County sheriff spokesman stated, and will largely determine how the fire is fought. A firetruck from Electric City went to the George area Monday but returned later that night.

The fire started Sunday afternoon and flared up Monday. Residents in some 50 homes had been told to be prepared to leave if the fire heads their way.

Sheriff's officials reported a hay-filled trailer was on fire on Frontage Road next to I-90. The tractor was not damaged and no one was injured.

State fire assistance was mobilized under the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan Sunday evening at the request of Grant County Fire District 3.

All lanes of I-90 were closed overnight between Vantage and George due to the heavy smoke. About 200 firefighters and two helicopters have been involved in working the fire. The freeway re-opened Tuesday at 10 a.m.

That was the second time in less than a week the freeway was closed due to heavy smoke. Sparks from a metal chop saw at a Moses Lake business ignited a fire that quickly spread in the dry wind Friday, destroying five buildings and 11,000 tons of hay. No one was hurt in that Inland Tarp fire, but the smoke was so thick that I-90 had to close for two hours.

The Colville Indian Reservation has been luckily spared since the fire north of Keller was put out. Kathy Moses, public information officer for the Mt. Tolman Fire Center, said Tuesday that things were quiet on the reservation.

A 5,000-acre fire that started July 2 about 12 miles northwest of Loomis in Okanogan County was 30 percent contained Tuesday. There were more than 400 firefighters involved fighting that blaze.

And the Wild Horse Fire in the Tonasket Ranger District has burned some 185 acres and closed a portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail system.

Sunday night, nearly 150 lightning strikes blanketed the area east of Tonasket, where firefighters have contained seven small fires. Six new ones started Monday.

Temperatures locally are expected to be cooler, reaching into the mid to high 80s through Sunday.

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