ROYAL CITY, Wash. — Wildfire that started Monday night in southern Grant County grew to 5,000 acres Tuesday before being largely contained.
Some outbuildings were lost but no homes were damaged. Numerous homes were evacuated at various times.
“An aggressive night crew did an amazing job and we’re working on keeping it contained in a small canyon area,” Denise McInturff, interagency fire spokeswoman in Royal City, said Wednesday morning, June 5.
She said 380 firefighters had a base camp in Royal City park and that at least five aircraft worked the fire Tuesday.
Called the 243 Fire for a local road, the fire started started about 9 p.m. June 3 near Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River, said Kyle Foreman, Grant County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. The cause was not known.
It threatened Wanapum Village and the towns of Beverly and Schwana and burned eastward up Lower Crab Creek, through ungrazed sagebrush and grass on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife land toward the village of Smyrna.
Twenty-five homes in the Smyrna area were under evacuation orders Tuesday. Power was out in the Mattawa area because of the fire.
Sam Krautscheid, a George, Wash., farmer, was spraying field corn near Smyrna Tuesday morning. He said smoke was so thick it was difficult to see but that the fire was burning in cattails and brush in a canyon along the creek in areas of no roads.
“Getting into that is about impossible. They’ll have to fight it from the edges and bring in some air attack,” Krautscheid said.
Eckenberg Farms, of Mattawa, was allowed up Beverly-Burke Road to move stacks of fresh hay, he said.
Krautscheid said he was not concerned about his corn and alfalfa fields about three miles east of the fire because they have roads and green orchards around them.
Krautscheid said he was heading home from the south at 9:30 p.m. Monday and was the last vehicle allowed on Beverly-Burke Road before it closed.
“Firefighters had a good line defending Wanapum Village and the wind in their favor,” he said. “Had the wind been out of the south, they probably wouldn’t have been able to save the village.”
The village of about 30 homes is farmworker housing for Zirkle Fruit Co., Selah.
Ryan Stewart, whose ranch is east of Smyrna, moved 130 mother-calf pair and six bulls six miles from higher ground down closer to home from 4 a.m. to noon Tuesday.
“It was precautionary. We were shipping this set Friday so I was going to get them anyway. The fire just stepped things up a bit,” he said.
Wednesday morning, he said the fire burned around Smyrna and was stopped by firefighters on his fence line about a mile from his house. It had traveled roughly 17 miles from the point of origin.
“It looks like the bulk of it is out. Down in the bottom (of the creek and canyon) where Russian Olive trees are thick it’s hard to get out and a few spots are still smoking,” Stewart said.
He said he lost a couple hundred acres of pasture he leases from private parties and the state Department of Natural Resources.
“I probably won’t be able to graze it for a year but I don’t think it’s enough to make me reduce my herd,” he said.
Stewart grazes more than 10,000 acres with his own herd of 400 mother cows and winter boards another 400 mother cows for other ranchers because he usually has ample forage with mild winters.
“This winter we had 20 inches of snow that we never have. The wet spring made tons of cheat grass that was fuel for the fire,” Stewart said.
Stewart and McInturff said they didn’t know of any major agricultural losses. It apparently was the first wildfire of any size in Central Washington this season.