Progress made in Ellensburg fire

Dan Wheat/Capital Press One of three helicopters working the Taylor Bridge Fire between Ellensburg and Cle Elum, Wash., the evening of Aug. 16. Families have been left homeless with 60 to 70 houses destroyed by the fire. Many livestock were rescued. It is not known if any perished.

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Some 955 fire personnel continued fighting the Taylor Bridge Fire between Ellensburg and Cle Elum on Aug. 17, four days after it started.

Progress was being made. It was listed at 33 percent contained with full containment expected on Aug. 19. Portions of state Highways 97 and 10 were reopened. Mop-up occurred in the southeastern side but hilly terrain remained challenging to firefighters in the southwestern and northern fronts.

The fire has claimed 60 to 70 homes and more outbuildings. Growth potential was listed as medium by firefighters and acreage burned was re-estimated at 22,787, down from an earlier estimate of 28,000.

More than 400 refugee livestock were being cared for at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds in Ellensburg. It was unknown if any animals died in the fire but officials were trying to assess that, said Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association in Ellensburg.

Bill Johnson, a cowboy for a Teanaway Valley rancher, said firefighters said it was the fastest moving fire they'd seen. Johnson said he was amazed by the number of people who opened their homes and pastures, taking in livestock and people who had lost homes.

"A guy down the road called from Arizona to tell a friend to put their horses at his place and that he and anyone else who needed could stay there," Johnson said. "And his house is on the market and has to be shown. It's a testament to the kind of people who live in these communities."

Johnson said two fire-victim families were staying at his house in the Teanaway and that many more were at the Cle Elum Senior Center. On Aug. 13, Johnson and a friend rescued horses from places of absentee homeowners in Hidden Valley. Two days later he was moving cattle from the fire's path and the next day rounding up strays up toward Blewett Pass.

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