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Taylor Bridge Fire updates: 10 percent of fire under control

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Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012 4:10 pm | Updated: 11:14 am, Tue Aug 21, 2012.

Updated 7 a.m.: Early this morning, Dr. Michael Fuller of the Ellensburg Animal Hospital was making rounds at one of the fairgrounds' animal barns where cats, rabbits and small dogs were being kept in cages and pet carriers. He said things were getting crowded in local animal clinics and kennels where dogs large and small are being cared for. With the influx of horses coming for the the Thursday-Sunday 4-H horse fair, things will be tight if more evacuated smaller animals are brought in today.

    "We'll work this out with the fairgrounds people and the horse show people somehow," Fuller said. "We'll make it work. We have some ideas for more space, but I don't think there's any more room in the animal hospitals in the area, especially for large dogs. The bigger dogs are harder to find space for."



Updated 7:45 p.m.: The Taylor Bridge Fire between Cle Elum and Ellensburg is 10 percent contained, Incident Commander Rex Reed said during a briefing Tuesday evening. He said there have been no accidents, and everyone is accounted for.

Areas that were problems today will continue to be areas of focus for firefighters tonight.

"As soon as it is safe to do so, we are going to work real diligently to with the sheriff's office to get homeowners back into their residences," he said.

He said the outpouring of support in Kittitas County has been notable.

"This is really a community that really helps each other. It does your heart good," he said. "Neighbors helping neighbors (with) horse trailers, helping people they might not know move livestock."

Reed said the No. 1 priority is to protect life and property. 

He said the cause of the fire has still not been determined, but the origin is near a construction site at the bridge near Taylor Road on state Route 10 east of Cle Elum. 

"The key part for us right now is, we don't need any more fires on the ground. When this fire started yesterday, it was the third fire that we had in about a 90-minute period, so what we really need is folks to be extremely careful," Reed said.

4:21 p.m.: Kittitas County Undersheriff Clay Myers said approximately 900 people have evacuated their homes in areas affected by the Taylor Bridge Fire burning between Cle Elum and Ellensburg. He said there is not an exact estimate of evacuees.

As many as 10 structures have been lost in the Sunlight Waters development east of Cle Elum between Interstate 90 and the Yakima River after the fire jumped the Yakima River in two places, Myers said. More than 70 homes have been lost in the fire, according to estimates as of 3:30 this afternoon.

Residents in the Hidden Valley and Bettas Road areas have been asked to evacuate. In the last half hour the east boundary of the fire along Green Canyon has flared back up and its moving toward the area of Sun East north of Ellensburg, Myers said. The area of Wilson Creek Road from north of Chalton Road is being evacuated, he said. The fire is still not contained.

There have been no reports of injuries and no reports of people trapped or stranded, Myers said.

The threat level for residents in north Ellensburg in the city limits is low at this time, he said.

3 p.m.: A state of emergency was proclaimed for Kittitas and Yakima counties to make available additional fire fighting resources to contain the Taylor Bridge Fire. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen signed the proclamation due to his status as acting governor when Gov. Chris Gregoire is out of state. The proclamation is in response to a specific request from the state Department of Natural Resources, according to a news release from the Governor's Office.

DNR requested air support from the Washington National Guard to assist in containment efforts for the fire that has burned more than 60 homes, 20,000 acres and forced about 900 people to evacuate. 

Yakima County declared a Stage 1 burn ban for the due to residual smoke originating from the wildfire in Kittitas County, the release said.

“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,” Gov. Gregoire said in the release. “DNR notified us today that access to Washington National Guard helicopters would assist in their efforts and this proclamation makes available those resources.”

Gregoire is closely monitoring the fire, is in contact with all response agencies, and directed her staff to prepare the proclamation which directs state agencies “to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recovery from” the events in Kittitas and Yakima counties.

2:48 p.m.: Crews continued battling flames in the vicinity of Upper Green Canyon Road northwest of Ellensburg, near the Reecer Creek area and spotty flare ups along the upper portions of state Route 10 on Tuesday.

"I just wanna get back," said Terry Brain of Tri-Cities as he watched flames and smoke from a driveway near Lower Green Canyon Road. Brain left his cabin deeper in the Reecer Creek area at around 4 a.m. Tuesday. "I'm on vacation."

But Brain believes his cabin is intact, and said he feels worse for people who lost their homes. He described watching homes erupt in flames from a distance.

"That's sick," Brain said. "I hate seeing that."

Brain said he was first told he would have to leave his cabin yesterday, but he expected to be able to return to his cabin shortly.

Personnel working in both the Reecer Creek and state Route 10 areas said air drops were still being called in late this morning, and areas along state Route 10 and U.S. Highway 97 continued to smolder. Charred outbuildings litter Lookout Mountain and the ridge above upper portions of state Route 10, but a number of houses have been saved.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has closed U.S. Highway 97 to most traffic at the intersection with state Route 10.

Wind turbines had begun to spin again, and workers appeared to be back on site at Taylor Bridge.

1:45 p.m.: Home and business owners who have incurred damages from the Taylor Bridge Fire are encouraged to file a report with the Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center immediately. This data will be used in determining if damages are significant enough to warrant a request for federal disaster assistance and various other forms of assistance. For more information, call 509-933-8305. Forms are available online here.

State Farm has received about 10 claims from homeowners where customers are reporting varying degrees of damage, including smoke and complete structural loss. People are encouraged to contact their agent right away, even if they are unsure of damage.

“As this fire continues to spread and evacuations are being called we remain available to our customers,” said State Farm spokesman Brad Hilliard. “We recommend if you’ve been evacuated, contact us as soon as you can, let us know that you’re safe and hold on to receipts for expenses you may be incurring as a result of the fire.”

The State Farm homeowners policy provides temporary living expense coverage for customers required to evacuate, such as motel and food expenses, subject to their policy deductible.

12:40 p.m.: People in Kittitas County are advised to limit outdoor activity due to poor air quality caused by the Taylor Bridge Fire.

The state Department of Ecology's air quality monitoring site in Ellensburg says smoke from the fire between Ellensburg and Cle Elum has caused "very unhealthy" air quality conditions — the second worse level.

Air quality categories are good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous. Air quality is expected to be in the unhealthy range at least throughout the week.

During these conditions, everyone should try to limit their outdoor activity, avoid excessive exertion, and avoid exposure to tobacco smoke or other respiratory irritants, according to a news release from the Kittitas County Public Health Department.

For a more detailed story about air quality, click here.

11:45 a.m.: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Taylor Bridge Fire, according to a news release.

Sharon Loper, FEMA acting regional administrator, approved the state's request for a federal fire management assistance grant early this morning. 

The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of Washington eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires, the release said. These grants provide reimbursement for firefighting and life-saving efforts. They do not provide assistance to individuals, homeowners or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire, the release said.

Fire grants are provided through the president's disaster relief fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. Expenses covered could include field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.

11:30 a.m.: In a statement, Gov. Chris Gregoire thanked the firefighters working on the Taylor Bridge Fire and asked Washington residents to follow burn bans throughout the state.

“All Washingtonians stand with those who have lost their homes and property in the Taylor Bridge Fire," Gregoire said in the statement. "The destruction overnight is a stark reminder of how quickly and unexpectedly wildfire can move."

DNR has made evacuating families and containment a top priority. Gregoire said her office is monitoring the fire and is in contact with DNR on any additional assistance it may need.

"I have directed the Washington State Patrol and the Emergency Management Department to continue to make this a priority. Additionally, the Department of Corrections has more than 140 inmates on the fire line," the statement said.

With hot and dry conditions and temperatures expected to remain high throughout Washington, Gregoire asked residents to obey burn bans and be safe.

10:30 a.m.: Rex Reed, incident commander for Washington's Interagency Incident Management Team II, said it is unknown when evacuated people will be able to return to their residences, during a press conference this morning at Walter Strom Middle School in Cle Elum.

The immediate concern for fire crews is the north flank of the fire footprint in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 97 and north of the highway, Reed said. The fire is still zero percent contained. The fire could go any direction, he said.

Reed said the fire started near the construction area on the bridge over state Route 10 near Taylor Road, but he said the cause of the fire is still unknown.

About 60 houses had been lost as of 10 a.m., Reed said and many more are threatened. About 400-450 homes have been evacuated.

 Gov. Chris Gregoire was expected to sign a state declaration of emergency, Reed said. The Kittitas Board of County Commissioners declared a local state of emergency Monday.

Reed said the fire is staying north of Ellensburg where the fuel type has changed from timber to shrub-steppe. There are multiple heads on the fire and it has jumped the Yakima River in two spots north of the Sunlight Waters housing development. Sunlight Waters was evacuated overnight.

Two town meetings will be held Wednesday for people to get more information about the fire. The first meeting is 4 p.m. at the Cle Elum-Roslyn High School gymnasium. The second meeting is 7 p.m. in the Student Union and Recreation Center at CWU in Ellensburg.

Nancy Jones, a spokeswoman for the Cle Elum Ranger District in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, said the ranger district is open for recreation. Jones said there is a burn ban in effect, meaning no recreational wood or charcoal fires are permitted, including in the developed campgrounds. Gas barbecues and stoves are allowed under the burn ban, Jones said.

People with plans to visit the Table Mountain area may want to make other plans, Jones said. Salmon la Sac and other areas northwest of Cle Elum are open and unaffected by the fire, she said.

Another press conference is planned at 7 p.m. tonight at Walter Strom Middle School.

7:02 a.m.: Staff at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds/Event Center in Ellensburg started mobilizing in the early afternoon Monday to be the emergency/disaster center for larger animals evacuated out  of harm's way by their owners, neighbors, friends and volunteers. Some volunteers drove country roads looking for stray horses heading away from the fire; reports were that some neighbors and passersby cut fences or opened gates to let horses and other livestock out who looked like they were in the path of the fire.

As of 6 a.m., there were 72 horses and 33 other animals at the fairgrounds. Those with large or small animals needing temporary, emergency housing can call 509-933-8236, or talk to volunteers near the north entrance to the fairgrounds and rodeo arena, off University Way and Alder Street, and Eighth Avenue. Smaller animals, large and small dogs, cats and others, are being taken to the local veterinarian clinics.    

Other volunteers drove county roads with horse and livestock trailers to pick up these frightened animals. Helping to coordinate the temporary housing of animals is the county fair/events center staff and seasonal help and many volunteers. They include local adults and teenagers involved with 4-H, the fair and rodeo boards, the Top Hands group, the Rodeo City Equine Rescue group, local veterinarians, members of the Kittitas County Roping Club and many more.

"The outpouring of volunteers and all kinds of help has just been overwhelming; everyone wants to help, wants to pitch in," said Sarah Maes, the fair and events center program assistant Monday night.

Local businesses have donated needed items for the animals, including large amounts of hay from Anderson Hay and Grain Co. Inc.

6:15 a.m.: The Taylor Bridge Fire is now at 27,000 acres (more than 40 square miles) and has burned 60 plus structures. No reported injuries.

The fire has jumped across Reecer Creek and is half way to Smithson Road and Pleasant Lane. Pheasant Lane has been evacuated.

Other areas evacuated through the night: Faust Road and Highway 97, Sunlight Waters and Morrison Canyon. Clarke Flats also affected.

Homeowners can call 509-933-8305 for evacuation information.

Monday, Aug. 13

11:45 p.m.: The Taylor Bridge Fire had burned up to 10,000 acres as of 10:30 p.m., although more accurate estimates will be available in the daylight, according to fire officials. Residents can call 509-933-8305 with evacuation questions, according to the sheriff's office.

10:45 p.m.: The Taylor Bridge Fire had burned 3,000 plus acres in the Ellensburg and Cle Elum areas as of 10:15 p.m. Monday. Firefighters have stopped the fire from moving forward in the Reecer Creek Road area, but the fire continues to burn and has not been contained.

Additional evacuation areas were implemented around Smithson and Reecer Creek Road, Hayward Road, Upper Lambert Road, Sun East and the east end of the fire on Highway 10, according to Kittitas County Fire District No. 7.

An Ellensburg evacuation shelter has been established at the Munson dorms at Central Washington University. In Cle Elum, people can go to the Centennial Center at 719 E. Third St. An emergency animal shelter has been set up at the fairgrounds.

The fire's cause is under investigation. The state Transportation Department said a 14-mile section of U.S. Highway 97 was closed because of the fire.

9:25 p.m.: The Office of the State Fire Marshal has mobilized state fire assistance for the Taylor Bridge Fire east of Cle Elum, according to a news release. 

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources at 3:30 p.m. today at the request of Kittitas County Fire District 7.

The fire started at about 1:19 p.m. and is burning in sage and timber. The cause of the fire is unknown. Mobilization specialists from the Fire Protection Bureau have ordered eight strike teams of wildland engines to supplement the resources already fighting the fire.

The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray has been activated to Phase II, to coordinate state assistance for the Taylor Bridge Fire. Personnel from the Office of the State Fire Marshal will be on scene to coordinate dispatch of resources, and other personnel will staff the State Emergency Operations Center.

The mobilization plan is implemented to provide a process to quickly notify, assemble and deploy fire service personnel, equipment and other resources from around the state when fires, disasters or other events exceed the capacity of local jurisdictions, the release said.

9:15 p.m.: Richelle Risdon, a spokeswoman for Kittitas County Fire District 7, said the fire is about 13 miles long from its origin at Taylor Road along state Route 10 just east of Cle Elum. More than 2,000 acres have been burned and 24 structures have been lost. At least 12 more structures are threatened. 

Three local fire districts have responded, along with the state Department of Natural Resources. On Tuesday morning the fire will be turned over to a Type II Washington Interagency Incident Management Team. About 250 firefighters are expected to be on scene.

A King County strike DNR tean should arrive on scene Tuesday morning, Risdon said. A Yakima strike team arrived this evening. 

It is unknown how many people have been evacuated or whether there have been any injuries associated with the fire. The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

Additional evacuation areas include the area of Smithson and Reecer Creek roads near Ellensburg, Hayward Road, Upper Lambert Road, the Sun East area and the east end of the fire on state Route 10, Risdon said.

8:40 p.m.: A spokesperson for Kittitas County Fire District 7 is reporting that the fire is now more than 2,000 acres and at least two dozen homes have been lost. 

8:15 p.m.: The Ellensburg Evacuation Shelter is Central Washington University's Munson residence hall. Check in at the Conference Center, use the C9 Parking lot on University Way across from Sue Lombard Hall. 

Residents in areas affected by the fire are strongly encouraged to adhere to evacuation protocols as they are explained to them, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. 

Gather family and pets and have them prepared to evacuate. Pack your vehicle with your emergency items including medication and personal identification.  

Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Leave early and stay away until your area has been cleared for return by local officials. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to best maneuver the wildfire and ensures your safety. 

6 p.m.: Central Washington University officials are coordinating with local authorities to house evacuated people in residence halls on campus, according to Linda Schactler, director of public affairs for CWU.

5:45 p.m.: A spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources said the Taylor Bridge Fire that started near Cle Elum this afternoon is 800-1,000 acres and growing.

DNR spokesman Mark Grassel said the fire will transition from local resources to a Type II Washington Interagency Incident Management Team on Tuesday morning.

DNR is conducting an air attack with three helicopters and one scooper — a single engine air tanker, Grassel said.

Grassel said a fire investigator is en route if not already at the origin of the fire to begin trying to determine a cause. Grassel said he was not aware of any injuries associated with the fire.

5:34 p.m.: The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office said the fire presents specific and immediate threat to life and safety of people in the affected areas. They are advised to evacuate immediately.

The fire has now jumped U.S. Highway 97 just below Elk Horn Road. The fire is headed east toward Lower Green Canyon and Reecer Creek. Residents in the Sun East area should consider evacuating immediately, according to the sheriff's office.

5:05 p.m.: The Kittitas Board of County Commissioners has declared a state of emergency for the Taylor Bridge Fire that started at about 2:20 p.m. today. The emergency operations center has been activated at the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office has ordered evacuations for the following areas: Bettas Valley, Swauk Valley, Teanaway, and homes on the west side of U.S. Highway 97 between 97 and the Swauk.

An emergency shelter has been opened at the Centennial Center at 719 E. Third St. in Cle Elum. The phone number there is 509-674-7530. An emergency animal shelter has been set up at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds in Ellensburg.

Radio traffic says the fire is traveling faster than 30 mph. They are requesting the Reecer and Sun East areas north of Ellensburg be evacuated.

4:30 p.m.: The Dragonwood Equine Facility on Lambert Road was able to evacuate all its equine residents. More fire crews are en route from Selah and Yakima and other areas to help fight the Taylor Bridge Fire. 

The state Department of Transportation is closing U.S. Highway 97 from milepost 147 to 149 due to the fire.

According to radio traffic, the fire has made it to Highway 97 and is heading over to Bettas Road.

4:12 p.m.: A fast-moving wildfire burning east of Cle Elum has grown to about 800 acres and is threatening homes in the area of Lambert and Taylor roads north of state Route 10.

A coordinator at the state Department of Natural Resources Central Washington Communication Center said the fire, off of state Route 10, is named the Taylor Bridge Fire. She said the fire was estimated at about 800 acres at 3:30 p.m. today. DNR and multiple local fire districts are fighting the fire that is zero percent contained.

Houses are threatened and people are being asked to evacuate. According to Richelle Risdon, PIO for Kittitas County Fire District 7, at least one home has been lost in the blaze. An air-attack crew is on scene and more crews have been ordered to the scene.

According to radio traffic, the fire has crested Lookout Mountain and is making its way into the Swauk basin toward Bettas Road.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

© 2015 Daily Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Ellensburg Blue posted at 5:36 pm on Fri, Aug 17, 2012.

    Ellensburg Blue Posts: 466

    I and my family give massive thanks to all the fire fighters who saved our house. Monday night the fire got to the edge of our property and only 700 feet from our front door straight up win and they held it at bay. They have watched for fire in our grass island every night and the sheriffs have checked to make sure our house has been secure while we were evacuated. Thank you all.

    I hope those responsible for starting the fire will step up and pay for what they caused. I am not for a bunch of new rules and laws. You do the job you should be insured and pay for your mistakes. Hold people responsible and they will be more likely to do the right thing in prevention.

  • Eburgrus11111 posted at 1:31 pm on Wed, Aug 15, 2012.

    Eburgrus11111 Posts: 0

    Not sure if anyone has considered asking this question before but here goes:

    Has anyone answered the question as to why there was no water truck at the scene of the initial fire at Tayler's Bridge?

    We seem to be so vulnarable to fire and everyone knows this yet we do not have water trucks at the sight of construction projects or even on standby in the summer month?

    Maybe county can consider making water a manditory commodity when doing high risk construction........such as welding or anything that can cause sparks.

    My prayers go out to all those effected by this fire......

  • hfcfit posted at 12:15 pm on Wed, Aug 15, 2012.

    hfcfit Posts: 1

    Health Fitness Complete Personal Fitness Training, located at 510 N. Ruby St. here in Ellensburg, is accepting donations of water, gatorade, and other high carbohydrate snacks to deliver to the firefighters in Cle Elum. Please bring your donations by 2pm so we can deliver them this afternoon! Thanks!

  • AR posted at 9:18 am on Wed, Aug 15, 2012.

    AR Posts: 1

    RE: 8/15 update @ 7AM

    First and foremost, thank you so much to the personnel providing emergency services and to those fighting the fire, and certainly a huge debt of gratitude to volunteers who have been transporting animals to safety and thanks to everyone who is making that possible (donating time, feed, trailers, trucks, etc.). No disrespect intended, but I cannot understand why the 4-H event is not postponed in light of the current emergency. I think we can agree that safely housing evacuated animals is more important than any event right now.

  • Lisa posted at 9:42 pm on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    Lisa Posts: 0

    I pray for everyone in this area. It is a special place to me. My grandparents, Margaret and Brownie cherished this area.

  • Howie posted at 8:30 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    Howie Posts: 1

    Who do I contact about volunteering to join a fire crew. Ben in a few brush fires in my day. Call me at 925-9745.

  • mgoudey posted at 8:04 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    mgoudey Posts: 1

    News programs keep saying, "evacuate out of the path of the fire"...but can you be more specific about the path.

  • rnighthorses posted at 5:05 am on Tue, Aug 14, 2012.

    rnighthorses Posts: 0

    Mike, Deanie, Holly, Wes...hope you're all safe.

  • LocalGirl84 posted at 11:26 pm on Mon, Aug 13, 2012.

    LocalGirl84 Posts: 1

    There are offers of help on the Facebook group called Community Connect, Kittitas County. If you or someone you know needs assistance PLEASE contact these gernerous people!

  • Su posted at 8:31 pm on Mon, Aug 13, 2012.

    Su Posts: 1

    We can see flames on hills to west neat windmills, abt 8 miles from here, on upper WIlson Creek Rd. Hoses are ready for our house roof and grass.

  • Su posted at 8:30 pm on Mon, Aug 13, 2012.

    Su Posts: 1

    We are on north end of Wilson Creek rdabove Charlton Rd and our neighbors above us are evacuating now. Many horse and cow trailers are moving out.

  • bennyrebar posted at 5:21 pm on Mon, Aug 13, 2012.

    bennyrebar Posts: 0




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County marijuana rules

The Kittitas County commissioners are considering changes to the county's marijuana zoning rules. What should they do?

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