Fire burned 11,000 acres in two counties, now contained
Firefighter crews battling the Watermelon Hill fire, seven miles southwest of Cheney and four miles east of Interstate 90 finally reached their goal Tuesday — total containment.
Cheney Fire Chief Mike Winters, one of a number of fire departments and districts working on the blaze, reported Tuesday night that the fire was 100 percent contained at 11,000 acres. Crews were beginning to demobilze Tuesdya, with Department of Natural Resources units remaining onsite through the week.
Over 300 firefighters were on the ground battling the Watermelon Hill Fire. The DNR, Lincoln County Fire District 1, Spokane County Fire District 3, Bureau of Land Management are mainly responsible for firefighting efforts. Fire departments from all over the country, including the West Plains, along with aircraft have also aided in firefighting efforts.
The fire started west of Fishtrap Lake in Lincoln County, Saturday July 19, at approximately 3 p.m.
One hundred structures in the area were threatened by the blaze on the first night. Lance Hills, Phillips, Scroggie, Dover, Sterling and Pine Springs roads were under Level 3 evacuations and people had to immediately leave the area. Level 2 evacuations were activated for Lance Hills and Phillips roads and the city of Tyler. While homeowners could stay in the area, crews advised them to be ready to leave.
State fire assistance under the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan was called, Saturday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m., which allowed for additional resources to be deployed from around the state.
Overnight Saturday, the fire went from 5,000 to 13,000 acres.
Structures are no longer threatened and all Level 2 and 3 evacuations have been downgraded to advisories as of Tuesday, July 22. Fishtrap Lake Resort, on Scroggie Road, remains at Level 3.
A shelter was set up at Cheney Middle School for people driven from their homes by the fire. The Cheney Rodeo Grounds took in displaced livestock and horses. The shelter at CMS closed, Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
DNR public information officer Chuck Turley said Tuesday morning that incident management teams would have their exit briefing Wednesday, July 23, where they will turn the fire back over to local fire departments.
“The local departments will decide on how to patrol and monitor the area for the next few days,” Turley said.
Al Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.