The Range 12 fire, near the Hanford nuclear site, is now 175,000 acres — much bigger than crews first realized. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph expected Tuesday will test firefighters’ preparations.
The lines are drawn.
Now, firefighters working the Range 12 fire in Yakima and Benton counties are watching to see if the 35 mph wind gusts expected Tuesday dare the fire beyond its containment.
On Monday, crews dug fire lines and performed control burns to blacken the land south of Highway 24 and west of Highway 240, knowing Tuesday’s weather would be a stiff challenge. Beginning at 11 a.m., much of Central and Eastern Washington is under a fire-weather warning, or red-flag warning.
“The plan is to get the containment lines in place before the wind comes,” said Randall Rishe, an information officer on the fire. “The red flag is a concern. It’s being monitored. As long as it stays within its containment lines, we’ll be successful putting (the fire) out.”
On paper, the fire grew by more than 100,000 acres Monday. But that’s only because firefighters were able to finally get a helicopter up to map the blaze’s footprint. Rishe said most of the 175,000 acres actually burned Saturday and Sunday. “When the smoke cleared, we flew the fire and we were able to get an accurate map of it,” he said.
No more flames were visible Tuesday morning, Rishe said, but hot spots were detected with infrared technology.
“What we’re going to do is monitor the wind, have crews out there check for spot fires, look for runs,” he said. The hope is to avoid a situation like Saturday, when high winds stretched the flame 10 feet horizontally along the ground into a “run” — which might be better described as a sprint.
“It can move unbelievably quick,” Rishe said.
More than 400 firefighters are working the Range 12 fire, which is west of the Hanford nuclear site.
Rishe said “there’s very low concern along Highway 240,” the barrier to the nuclear site. But, “it’s all contingent on this wind event.”
“We are prepared for it,” he said.