A state of emergency was declared Tuesday for Kittitas and Yakima counties as firefighters from multiple jurisdictions fought to contain the fast-growing Taylor Bridge fire.
"I have requested that the Emergency Management Department and the Washington State Patrol continue to make this firefighting effort a priority and provide the resources that the Department of Natural Resources needs to carry out its job," said Gov. Chris Gregoire. "DNR notified us today that access to Washington National Guard helicopters would assist in their efforts and this proclamation makes available those resources."
Resources from all over Washington were called in to help stop the wildland fire that grew from 2,800 acres to more than 20,000 in a matter of hours. By Tuesday afternoon, the fire had grown to more than 28,000 acres.
At least 900 people have been evacuated, but no injuries were reported from the blaze, which began at a bridge construction site Monday afternoon.
Among the hundreds of firefighters on fire lines Tuesday are 140 inmates from the Washington Department of Corrections, ordered there by Governor Chris Gregoire.
Wind whipped the flames overnight, destroying more than 60 homes and as many as 40 other buildings.
KING 5 Meteorologist jeff Renner said there won't be much improvement in the weather, with temperatures heating up and the winds shifting from west to east.
Houses from Cle Elum to Thorp have been evacuated. As winds shifted toward pockets of subdivisions between Interstate 90 and Highway 97, people in about 450 homes awoke in the middle of the night to firefighters at their doorstep.
There is no containment line yet.
Two community meetings are scheduled for Wednesday where area residents can learn more about the fire response and recovery. The meetings are scheduled for 4 p.m. at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School gymnasium, and 7 p.m. at Central Washington University's Student Union and Recreation Center.
A bundle of other resources have been devoted to the fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the use of federal money to fight the flames. It's also the top priority of the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Washington State Patrol and the Emergency Management Department.
The inmates joining firefighters are from Cedar Creek, Larch and Olympic Corrections Centers reports the Seattle Times.
Central Washington University will help by housing dozens of evacuees and firefighters. Some residents still in their homes have also opened their doors to state crews.
The additional aid is much needed by regional firefighters who worked all night trying to stop the fire from spreading.
"We're all tired, but we want to go up and protect those homes," said firefighter Brian Cavanaugh with Kittitas County Fire District 1, who hadn't had a break since the fire ignited.
Construction crews on the Taylor Bridge Project caused the initial brush fire Monday, according to Rick Scriven of Eastside Fire and Rescue (click for picture of the bridge).
Sparking near Taylor Road and SR 10, the fire began as only about 150 acres. By midnight it had grown to 16,000 acres and by 2:00 a.m. Tuesday it had surpassed 20,000 acres, consuming homes and buildings in its path.
One firefighter said he had never seen a fire move so quickly. As a result of a rain in June followed by drier conditions in July, the east slopes of the Cascades are filled with combustible tinder allowing the fire to burn hot and quick.
Wind and temperatures above 90 degrees are expected to be a factor in the firefight over the next several days, however lightning may not be in the forecast until the weekend.A more detailed wildfire weather forecast can be found here.
The fire has burned roughly 31 square miles, which equates to about the size of the City of Bellevue.
The Kittitas Community Connect Facebook page has helped many evacuees stay in contact with one another.
KING 5's Lindsay Chamberlain, Jake Whittenberg, Roberta Romero, Meg Coyle, Chris Daniels, Susan Wyatt, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.