Grass Valley Fire chars an estimated 75,000 acres

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GRAND COULEE — A wildfire burning west of Grand Coulee has charred an estimated 75,000 acres and destroyed five outbuildings and damaged at least one home.

The wildfire, dubbed the “Grass Valley Fire,” broke out about 11:25 a.m. on Saturday in Douglas County near the city of Mansfield. High winds caused the fire to grow rapidly. State firefighting assistance was authorized by Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste. A Level 3, or “leave now,” evacuation notice was sent out for the northwest section of Grand Coulee about 7:05 p.m. and another Level 3 notice was sent out for the town of Coulee Dam on the west side of the Columbia River about 8:25 p.m. Saturday night.

A Level 2 evacuation notice was issued for the central and east sections of Grand Coulee about 7:15 p.m. and a Level 1 notice was sent out about 7:20 p.m. for the towns of Electric City and Coulee Dam. A Red Cross shelter was set up for evacuees at Wilbur High School, 202 Pope St. in Wilbur.

“While there were air resources working the fire early on Saturday, because of the wind conditions, they could not scoop water from the Columbia River, and due to the wind, they did not have a good visual of the fire line,” stated the Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Team in a news release.

The only reported injury was that of a firefighter who has been transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment. As of the Columbia Basin Herald’s press time on Sunday there were 100 personnel at the scene of the fire, 13 fire engines, four water tenders and three dozers. The issued evacuation levels were downgraded to a Level 1 on Sunday and later upgraded to Level 2 for Grand Coulee north of canal and Coulee Dam.

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

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