Mattawa fire

The Powerline Fire burns grass and sagebrush on southern slope of Saddle Mountains near Mattawa, Wash., on July 14. The fire is now under control.

MATTAWA, Wash. — Wildfire burned 7,800 acres of sagebrush and grass on the south slope of the Saddle Mountains about 4 miles north of Mattawa on July 14 before being brought under control.

It did not spread after that and 250 firefighting personnel from around the state were being demobilized on Tuesday, said Nancy Jones, an interagency fire spokeswoman.

“The fire quit spreading in the middle of the night (Sunday) when the wind died down. Crews worked hard to prevent it from getting into agricultural areas,” Jones said from the fire command post and camp at Wahluke High School in Mattawa.

“One vineyard had some scorching on perimeters, two to three rows in one area. There were no injuries to stock,” she said.

Irrigation water was disrupted for 24 to 30 hours from the loss of 10 power poles but they were replaced by the Grant County Public Utility District on Monday and water was restored, she said.

Most of the burned land is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and did not appear to be leased for grazing, she said.

Grant County Fire District No. 8, the lead local agency, will likely resume fire management on Thursday, Jones said.

A few dozen homes and farms remained on low-level evacuation preparedness Tuesday. About 15 were under evacuation notice on Sunday.

The fire was reported at 12:38 p.m. Sunday, by off-road motorcylists, one of whom apparently went down on his motorcycle, catching grass on fire in the hills north of roads 24 and R Southwest, said Kyle Foreman, Grant County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

The fire appears to be accidental and was in an area open to motorcycles, hiking and public recreation, he said.

The fire was dubbed the Powerline Fire because it started under some powerlines, he said.

Wind spread the fire eastward to north of Road O Southwest. Some 60 local firefighters and fire apparatus and 30 state and federal personnel, a helicopter and a plane “were able to get control” during the night as temperatures dropped and the fire slowed down, Foreman said.

An irrigation canal also kept the fire from spreading onto farmland, he said.

The fire was in steep, rugged terrain that was hard to access, he said.

The fire was about 1 to 1.5 miles south of and parallel to the 243 Fire that burned in Crab Creek and Smyrna canyons on the north side of Saddle Mountains on June 3-5. The cause of that fire remains under investigation.

Central Washington field reporter

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