The wildfire, burning primarily in grasses and sagebrush on the Yakama Reservation, has blackened an estimated 7,000 acres south of Toppenish since starting Sunday.

Share story

TOPPENISH — Firefighters hope Tuesday’s weather will give them an edge on a wildfire that has blackened an estimated 7,000 acres south of Toppenish since starting Sunday.

The fire, burning primarily in grasses and sagebrush on the Yakama Reservation, was estimated to be 50 percent contained late Monday.

Firefighters, whose ranks were swelling to 200 as additional crews arrived Monday afternoon, were helped by lower temperatures and light winds Monday. Similar weather is forecast for Tuesday, in contrast to Sunday when high winds with gusts up to 40 mph quickly pushed flames and prompted evacuations.

No buildings had been lost as of Monday night, nor had any injuries been reported. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

On Monday, the fire was burning between U.S. Highway 97 and Plank Road, mostly on the closed portion of the Yakama Nation reservation, with much of the fire in areas inaccessible to engines or bulldozers.

An air tanker, picking up fuel and fire retardant at an air base in Moses Lake, made repeated runs over the fire Monday, but helicopters that were employed earlier in the fire were grounded as there were not enough targets for them at the time, firefighters said.

Four ground crews worked in the Satus Creek drainage Monday, in the southeast corner of the fire, said incident commander Chad James.

Monday night’s weather was expected to further aid firefighters, with temperatures dropping into the 50s and humidity increasing. Tuesday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the 80s, light winds and moderate humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

Crews from Yakima County Fire District 5 and tribal firefighters initially fought the fire. The incident-management team is bringing in 200 firefighters, including some from the state Department of Natural Resources and Benton County, James said. The team will free up the other firefighters to respond to other fires in the area.

While the area is relatively remote, there are some homes in the region. Earlier evacuation orders for several homes have been lifted, James said, but people have been advised to be ready in case they need to get out.

The fire is one of several large blazes burning around the state. About 55 homes were threatened around the Deep Lake Fire burning 8 miles southeast of the town of Northport on the hillsides above Deep Lake in Stevens County. Estimated at 800 acres, it is burning in heavy brush and Douglas fir tree stands.

Far more serious are a series of fire burning in the Spokane area, which have destroyed at least 16 homes in the Davenport and Spangle areas.

To the north, a fire jumped the Spokane River and threatened the small community of Wellpinit on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Residents were told to evacuate after the town lost power.