Beating it back: Fire crews gain upper hand on wildfire north of Soap Lake

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  • Grant County Fire District No. 13/courtesy photo The Soap Lake Fire scorched an estimated 2,000 acres north of Soap Lake on Monday and Tuesday.

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    Grant County Fire District No. 13/courtesy photo Firefighters with Grant County Fire District No. 13 battle the Soap Lake Fire Monday night.

  • Grant County Fire District No. 13/courtesy photo The Soap Lake Fire scorched an estimated 2,000 acres north of Soap Lake on Monday and Tuesday.

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    Grant County Fire District No. 13/courtesy photo Firefighters with Grant County Fire District No. 13 battle the Soap Lake Fire Monday night.

SOAP LAKE — Aided by favorable weather conditions on Tuesday, fire crews were able to gain the upper hand on a large blaze that broke out on Monday north of Soap Lake.

The fire, which has been dubbed “Soap Lake Fire” by officials, broke out Monday afternoon near milepost 81 on state Route 17, a few miles north of Soap Lake, in a largely rural, unpopulated area.

High winds caused the fire to grow Monday afternoon and into the night, prompting an all county page for resources to aid Grant County Fire District No. 7. A Level 3 evacuation notice, which indicates immediate fire danger, was issued by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office just after 8 p.m. Monday for all homes on the east side of SR-17 from milepost 81 south to the Smokiam RV Resort.

A Level 2 evacuation notice, which indicates significant risk to an area, was issued about an hour later by the sheriff’s office for the west side of SR-17 from the Smokiam RV Resort north to Lake Lenore Drive. An additional Level 3 notice was issued shortly before midnight for all homes on Road 23.5 Northeast near Road A Northeast. The sheriff’s office says an estimated 20 homes were notified of the Level 3 notice and 15 homes were notified of the Level 2 notice.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state fire fighting resources, at the request of GCFD No. 7 Chief Kirk Sheppard, about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday morning. Mobilization specialists from the Fire Protection Bureau ordered additional fire engines, as well as aircraft and hand crews, to help combat the fire and the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Camp Murray in Tacoma was activated to a Level 2 to coordinate state firefighting resources. Personnel from the state Fire Marshal’s Office also arrived at the scene on Tuesday to coordinate and dispatch resources.

State resources continued arriving throughout the day on Tuesday to replace local crews that were fighting the fire the previous day and night. Both of the Level 3 notices were dropped to a Level 2 about 1:40 p.m. on Tuesday.

Trooper Jeff Sevigney, public information officer for the fire, said as of Tuesday afternoon about 200 personnel were at the scene, which was reported to be at 50 percent containment and had burned about 2,000 acres. There have been no reported injuries from the fire, but one small outbuilding was destroyed.

Richard Byrd can be reached via email at city@columbiabasinherald.com.

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