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Huge, rapid blaze consumes Douglas County landscape

Evacuations ordered from Leahy to west Coulee Dam


A massive smoke cloud looms over the Grand Coulee Dam Airport and Banks Lake Saturday during the Grass Valley Fire. The smoke was so thick that airplanes couldn't be used to fight the fire because pilots couldn't see to target their drops. Winds were so strong the fire traveled more than 20 miles in eight hours. - Scott Hunter photo

Whipped by wind, a fire that started near the turn to Mansfield Saturday morning sped over grass, sage and stubble, burning one firefighter and threatening homes and property, on its 20-mile race to menacing Grand Coulee and Coulee Dam, parts of which were ordered to evacuate.

Eventually, 247 firefighters would respond from across the state, but the initial attack was up to local volunteers.

Douglas County Fire Districts 3 and 5 were dispatched to a mile east and a mile south of Sim's Corner, the junction of highways 17 and 172 about halfway between Leahy Junction and Coulee City.

It had s...

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