As flames burned through the trees on the ridge a mile or so from his home on Wednesday afternoon, Dale Johnson wasn’t getting ready to flee. Instead, he was gassing up a lawnmower.
Johnson, 65, wore a surgical mask to protect him from the smoke in the air. The idea, he said, was to cut down the tall prairie grass around his home to slow the fire’s progress and keep it from jumping should it reach his land — which looked like a possibility.
“It seems like it’s coming more and more this way,” he said, looking out at the flames.
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Johnson and most of his neighbors on Leo Lane, a short road with half a dozen houses about 10 miles east of Cle Elum, seem to be sticking it out as the Taylor Bridge Fire, consumed the land about a mile to the south. One neighbor, Ed Eusterbrock, said he had trimmed his trees and watered everything. Another piled fresh dirt at the base of each of the pine trees on his land.
Eusterbrock, 68, said he and his wife had packed everything up on Tuesday and were ready to leave for their son’s house, a few miles away, if the fire got much closer. Johnson had packed up, too, he said, and woke up every hour Tuesday night to make sure the fire hadn’t crept any closer.
As a helicopter flew over the smoke rising from Lookout Mountain near from the burning ridge, Johnson said he never imagined anything like this when he bought the house four years ago.
“We’ve asked around,” he said, “and they’ve never had anything like this.”