Powerline Fire scorches almost 8,000 acres

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Emry Dinman/Sun Tribune Firefighters soak down the smoldering remains of the Powerline Fire, which burned 7,800 acres near Mattawa.

MATTAWA — The scene of the Powerline Fire, which sparked Sunday afternoon near Mattawa and burned 7,800 acres, had largely settled by Monday afternoon, with the majority of the fire’s fuel having burned away overnight.

Around a dozen firefighters from various agencies tended to a mound of grape husks drying in a field along the northern bank of a canal, one of the last large piles of smoldering material, and other teams took shovels to the scorched remains of scrub brush.

Though the fire was still only officially 50 percent contained by 5 p.m. Monday, the fire is considered under control by crews on the ground. The scene was starkly different overnight, when around 250 firefighting personnel, two helicopters, an air tanker and dozens of other vehicles descended on the Saddle Mountains north of Mattawa.

The blaze was started under high-voltage power lines which supply electricity to antennas along the Saddle Mountains after a motorcyclist’s bike fell over and the hot engine and exhaust sparked dry grass. The fire threatened homes, crops, feedlot, and infrastructure. Some rows of grape vines withered in the heat, though estimates of property damage were not readily available Monday afternoon.

High winds pushed the fire along the south slope of the Saddle Mountains, and though it threatened to push north over the top of the ridge or south of an irrigation canal, firefighters limited growth to a thin strip along the slope. State fire assistance mobilized at 7 p.m. Sunday under the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan in support of local firefighters at the request of David Patterson, Fire Chief of Grant County Fire District No. 8.

Evacuation notices were sent out by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office Sunday night to residents near the fire. Level 1 evacuation notices are still in effect for the 23000 blocks of Road E SW, Road F SW, Road G SW, Road H SW, Road I SW, Road J SW, Road K SW, Road L SW, Road M SW, Road N SW, and Road O SW.

Though they were previously under Level 3 (get out) evacuation notices, the notice was downgraded around midnight Monday morning to Level 2 (get set) for the 23000 blocks of Road O SW, Road P SW, Road Q SW, and Road R SW.

There were no reported injuries.

Emry Dinman can be reached via email at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.

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