A wildfire that’s burned dozens of homes and charred more than 20,000 acres near Cle Elum was 90 percent contained by firefighters Tuesday night.
More than 1,000 fire personnel battling the Taylor Bridge Fire had hoped to fully contain the blaze Tuesday, but gusty winds late in the day caused the delay. Crews were optimistic they will fully contain the wildfire by Friday.
Crews were focusing on the north central portion of the fire to complete the containment line. Firefighters said the bottom of the drainage near Hidden Valley is the final significant segment of the line to be completed.
The southeast half of the fire was contained over the weekend, but flare ups continue along the fire’s northern flank. Even after full containment is reached, crews will remain in the area for weeks to monitor hot spots. Strike teams were using hand-held infrared sensors to detect any hot spots.
Firefighters on Monday were doing burnouts - small fires within the control lines of the fire, used to get rid of pockets of unburned fuels. Fire managers said the burnout operations were successful over approximately 200 acres on the northwest side of the fire, west of Hidden Valley Road and just south of Lambert Road. On the east and south side of the fire, an estimated 24 miles of perimeter has been mopped up 300 feet into the burned area.
“We try to control the situation by starting a fire based on the wind and terrain and so if the fire tries to spread it doesn’t have anywhere to go,” said fire information officer Tim Perciful.
Reduced evacuation orders remain in place for the Hidden Valley neighborhood in the northwest corner of the fire, where erratic winds have plagued fire crews. Level 3 evacuation order remains for some of the northwest portions of the fire.
Evacuted a week ago on the day the fire started, Bob Haynie still checks on his home every day.
“It takes a lot of energy to be stressed out and after a while you run out of energy,” Haynie said. “So you just go on and say, ‘Okay, let see what happens now.’”
Wind prevented firefighters from conducting burnouts on Sunday, but cooler temperatures and humidity over the weekend provided them an opportunity to get ahead of the flames. They were able to increase containment lines and allow more homeowners to get back inside the fire zone. Lightning that was in the forecast did not materialize.
No new road closures have been issued. S.R. 970 and S.R. 97 have been reopened. The temporary restriction on drinking water in Sunlight Waters was lifted Saturday night.
The fire is believed to have been started by construction work on the nearby Taylor Bridge.