Federal grant approved for Grass Valley Fire

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Chris Majors Photography/courtesy photo The Grass Valley Fire sends a large plume of smoke into the sky.

GRAND COULEE — A federal grant was approved to aid fire crews in combating the large Grass Valley Fire, which has burned an estimated 75,000 acres so far.

The large wildfire broke out on Saturday in Douglas County near the intersection of state Route 17 and state Route 171. Crews with Douglas County Fire District No. 3 and 5, Grant County Fire District No. 14, the Bureau of Land Management, the state Department of Natural Resources, Okanogan County Fire District No. 8 and the Bureau of Land Management were first at the scene.

Several evacuation notices were sent out for the towns of Grand Coulee, Coulee Dam and Electric City and a Red Cross emergency shelter was set up at Wilbur High School. All evacuation notices have since been downgraded to Level 1. The fire was estimated to be 40 percent contained as of Monday evening.

Winds were strong on Saturday and the blaze rapidly grew in size and prompted the authorization of state firefighting resources on Saturday. Local and state crews battled the fire Saturday night and into Sunday, with the Southeast Washington Interagency Management Team taking control at 7 a.m. on Sunday.

On Sunday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG). FMAGs are made possible via the President’s Disaster Relief Fund to aid agencies with expenses related to field camps, equipment use, repair and replacement, mobilization and demobilization activities, and tools, materials and supplies.

The fire has destroyed five outbuildings and damaged at least one home. The only reported injury was that of Okanogan County Fire District No. 8 firefighter Brett Read, 38, of Omak. Read and another firefighter were reportedly fighting the blaze on Saturday when conditions intensified and Read was separated from the fire engine he was working on and was burned by flames. Read was transported to Coulee Medical Center and later airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment, according to OCFD No. 8 Chief Ed Townsend.

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

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