Growing Widlfire in Central Washington Prompts Evacuations and Threatens Homes and Farms

QUINCY, Wash. (AP) -- Authorities in central Washington told some people to leave their homes immediately as a new, growing wildfire sparked west of Quincy on Monday afternoon.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office issued the evacuation notices for areas near the unincorporated community of Trinidad and the resort area of Crescent Bar.

Washington's Fire Marshal's Office said in the evening said that state mobilization had been authorized for the the Baird Springs Fire, which had burned about 1.4 square miles (3.6 square kilometers) of terrain containing sage brush and crops. It was also threatening homes, orchards and a processing warehouse.

The fire started at about 2:30 p.m., and the cause was under investigation.

It was moving south, and State Route 28 was closed in the area because fire had burned right up to it, according to the sheriff's office.

An American Red Cross shelter was opening in Quincy.

In southwest Washington, officials said, the Tunnel 5 Fire, which started July 2 in the Columbia River Gorge, was mostly contained on Monday and all evacuation orders were lifted. Lower temperatures and increased humidity over the weekend helped firefighters reach 80% containment.

The fire has burned nearly a square mile (about 2 square kilometers) and damaged about 10 structures. Evacuation orders affected about 1,000 residents last week.

Fire crews will continue to patrol the area as warmer temperatures and higher winds return in the next week and the fire continues to burn in some places, officials said. Smoke will still be visible.

Last year Washington experienced one of its mildest wildfire seasons in a decade, and officials have put people on alert for what could be one of its busiest in 2023. The state Department of Ecology issued a statewide drought advisory last week.

"Our warm weather arrived a few weeks early this year and really kicked the runoff into overdrive," said Jeff Marti, water resources planner for the Department of Ecology.

State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has said the landscape is dry and just one spark can can erupt into a conflagration.

"This fire season is already highly explosive, and I am so grateful for these men and women who are giving it their all to keep us safe in these dry, hot conditions, Franz said last week on Twitter.