Wildfire burns Monument Hill; evacuations lifted
A fast-moving fire on Monument Hill, fueled by a southwest wind late Tuesday evening, was on its way to being contained on Wednesday.
The Monument Hill fire started at close to 11 p.m. Tuesday, said Kyle Foreman, spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. On Wednesday, the fire was at 2,100 acres and had destroyed five outbuildings and abandoned buildings. No injuries were reported.
There may be some scorched or damaged vineyards and orchards; however, no crops were destroyed, said Don Fortier, chief of Grant County Fire District No. 3.
The fire was 20 percent to 30 percent contained by Wednesday afternoon. The two-mile long fireline is about 3.5 miles northeast of Quincy. The fire’s boundaries included Baird Springs to the north, Monument Hill Road below the old TV tower to the west, Road 13 Northwest to the south and Road J.8 Northwest to the east.
A cause for the fire had not yet been determined on Wednesday; however the fire was started close to the road at Monument Hill below that TV tower, Fortier said.
“Hopefully we figure out what caused it,” Foreman said. “It is a pretty remote area.”
“Anything is possible,” Fortier said after a press conference Wednesday morning.
Fortier expected to see some flare-ups Wednesday as winds and temperatures increase; however, he also expected the fire’s command to be transitioned back over from the state to the local fire district by 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Local fire officials made a request for assistance to the Washington State Fire Resource Mobilization Plan. That request was approved shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, Foreman said. Mobilization specialists ordered 20 engines and a Type 3 incident commander to assist local efforts.
“We will have crews out all day reinforcing those (fire) lines,” Fortier said.
A caller reported in the fire on Monument Hill at 10:50 p.m. Tuesday. The fire quickly spread over the hill, which is covered in dry sage brush and grass. It was driven by winds of 10 to 15 mph.
Fortier, at a press conference, described the terrain as “rocky, dusty and dirty.” The hill is fairly steep, and crews are able to drive vehicles on only about 75 percent of the terrain, he said.
Shortly after midnight, Level 3 evacuation orders were given to residents living on Road 13 Northwest near Adams Road. About 24 homes were given evacuation orders, Foreman said.
A Level 3 evacuation notice means residents are in immediate danger and must leave the area.
Law enforcement officials with the Washington State Patrol, Grant County Sheriff’s Office and Quincy Police Department went door to door, evacuating people.
Level 2 evacuation orders followed at about 1:20 a.m. to all homes from Road K Northwest to Martin Road near Quincy.
A Level 2 evacuation indicates there is a significant risk to an area and a mandatory evacuation order may be issued at any time. Resident should either voluntarily leave the area, or be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Firefighters were able to do some “pre-burning of fuels around the homes” to ward off the fire, Fortier said. About 4 a.m. Wednesday, winds reduced and crews were able to form a line about 95 percent around the fire, he said.
“What we all advocate is be prepared,” Foreman said of the fire season. “Have your evacuation plan already in your head.”
A temporary shelter for evacuees was established at Quincy Junior High School; however, no one from the public opted to use the shelter, said Amanda Appel, disaster program specialist with the American Red Cross.
Red Cross provided breakfast to about 80 firefighters at the school, Appel said.
Those evacuation orders were lifted at about 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday because there were no longer any threats to any homes.
Fire departments from throughout Grant County, as well as those in Chelan and Douglas counties, responded to the fire, Foreman said.
The Monument Hill fire is the fourth wildland fire in four days that local firefighters have responded to, Fortier said. On Sunday, firefighters sent a truck and crew to the Sleepy Hollow Fire in Wenatchee, which destroyed 28 homes and erupted in the commercial district.
Firefighters also responded to small wildfires in the Frenchman Hills area on Monday and at Road R and Martin Road at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Firefighters are seeing “mid-August” conditions around the Quincy Valley, Fortier said. And, with the July 4th holiday quickly approaching, the fire chief asked people to refrain from using fireworks.
“I wish they wouldn’t. I wish they would save them for New Year’s,” he said. “Because it is terribly, terribly dry out there and it doesn’t take much (to start a fire).”
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org