Crews fighting the Taylor Bridge wildfire in Kittitas County reported some progress Friday, and some areas that were under mandatory evacuation order earlier in the week were reopened to residents.
As of Friday evening, the wildfire burning near Cle Elum had charred 23,113 acres was 40 percent contained.
The fire continued pose a significant challenge, especially along its northern edges, firefighters said. And a spot fire broke out Friday afternoon outside the Taylor Bridge firelines, diverting two teams and helicopter resources in hopes of dousing the 10-acre fire quickly.
The team coordinating the Taylor Bridge fire effort has warned all week that hot weather and exceptionally dry conditions raised the liklihood of new fires breaking out. Small fires were reported Friday in the Puget Sound region, one near Shelton and another near Provost.
The National Weather Service underscored the threat in issuing new Red Flag warnings for much of western Washington. Thunderstorms are expected to cross the region on Saturday, starting in the morning hours over the Olympic Peninsula and moving eastward throughout the day. Expected lightning strikes could touch off multiple fires in forests that have not received more than a trace of rain since mid-July.
By Friday evening, firefighters battling the Taylor Bridge wildfire were estimating 100 percent containment by Monday, but the man coordinating the effort said he may have to pull back some resources in anticipation of more fires on Saturday.
“Because of the potential of lightning, we’re actually being asked to release a few resources tomorrow to make them available for the potential new starts, both in eastern Washington and in western Washington,” said incident commander Rex Reed.
Twenty-two hand crews were working the fire on Friday, along with about 100 fire engines and 12 bulldozers -- a total of 950 personnel.
Evacuation levels in some areas around the fire lines were upgraded on Friday. According to Kittitas County emergency coordinators, the Level 1 evacuation order north of SR 970 was upgraded to Level 2. These areas include Swauk Prairie, Ley Road, and Hartman Road. In addition, areas north of SR 97 to north of China Camp Lane, including Shamrock Lane and Forbes Lane, were upgraded to a Level 2 evacuation. (Level 2 means residents are asked to leave an area or be ready to leave at a moment's notice.)
At a briefing Friday afternoon in Cle Elum, the Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers said the department has received 117 reports of property damage so far. Officers were able to confirm 48 residential losses and 15 other structural losses.
The Taylor Bridge Fire started Monday afternoon. Road construction work near the bridge is thought to be the source, and investigators were on the scene Friday searching for clues. Watch a report by KING 5's John Langeler.
Two community meetings are planned Friday - 4 p.m. in the Cle Elum / Roslyn High School Gymnasium and 7 p.m. in the Student Union Recreation Room at Central Washington University, located at 400 East University Way in Ellensburg.
Emergency shelters are at:
-- Cle Elum Centennial Senior Center, 719 E. Third Street, Cle Elum, (509) 963-1141
-- Central Washington University, Munson Dorms, Ellensburg, (509) 674-7530
-- Animals evacuated to the Kittitas County Fairground
Donations are being accepted by the Red Cross. The Kittitas County Sheriff has said money, not goods, are the best way to help residents. Find out how you can help.
Facebook page for evacuated and injured pets and animals
Associated Press and KING 5 reporting.