Fire crews attack south, west flanks of blaze

WENATCHEE — Firefighters in central Washington worked Thursday to shore up the southern and western flanks of a blaze that has charred a wide swath of land in two counties, as they kept watch for thunderstorms that could bring dry lightning and erratic winds. The fast-moving Colockum Tarps Fire was 25 percent contained Thursday, but it has burned across nearly 113 square miles of dry grass, sagebrush and light timber and destroyed several homes and outbuildings.

Residents of about 100 scattered homes and cabins in Kittitas County were ordered to evacuate Wednesday, and they remained out of their homes on Thursday, fire officials said.

Adding to the pressure: The region is under red-flag warnings for thunderstorm activity through Thursday, with the potential for dry lightning and erratic winds.

About 700 firefighters were assigned to the blaze.

The fire originated south of Wenatchee and methodically churned south along the Columbia River, burning to the north end of a Puget Sound Energy wind farm that sits about 17 miles east of Ellensburg overlooking the river.

Further south, the Mile Marker 28 Fire near Goldendale was 65 percent contained. The fire has charred about 42 square miles near Satus Pass and forced the closure of U.S. Highway 97 for days.

The highway reopened Wednesday, though travel delays of up to one hour should be expected, with pilot cars leading vehicles through the fire area.

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