GOLDENDALE, Wash. – Eighteen homes have burned in a blaze moving through dry forests near Washington state's Satus Pass and that number could increase, officials said Sunday.
The fire has burned through more than 6 square miles about 20 miles north of the Columbia River and about 12 miles northeast of city of Goldendale since last Wednesday. The 4,250-acre fire is 30 percent contained as of Sunday.
"Things are going very well. The winds have been very calm, which has been very helpful," fire spokesman Guy Gifford said Sunday afternoon. "The fire is doing what it's supposed to be doing."
Winds forecasted for late Sunday and early Monday could change the situation, and crews were working Sunday to establish a 50-foot perimeter around the fire's edge. More than 800 firefighters have been called across the state to help.
"Crews are focusing on the fire lines out there and improving them as much as possible so the winds won't kick the fire back up," fire spokesman Chuck Terley said.
Residents of many of the 200 homes threatened by a 4,200-acre blaze were allowed to return to their homes Saturday night, but authorities could not give an estimate of how many.
An area about 39 square miles remains on evacuation alert, and people there were told to be ready to leave on short notice should the fire situation change.
The blaze has burned a total of 104 building, as of Sunday afternoon. That includes four cabins and 53 outbuildings, but did not include a count of structures in the area north of Box Canyon road.
The fire started Wednesday along U.S. Highway 97 near a Greek Orthodox monastery. From there, it burned southeast of the highway through steep forested canyons and flat areas with dry grasses and thick stands of Ponderosa pines.
The fire remained under investigation, but it was believed to be human-caused.
Washington is experiencing a fairly late wildfire season after a winter of heavy snow and a cool spring, but the hot, dry conditions of summer have continued well into September.
Longtime resident Monte Isaacs spent 20 years building his two-story cabin out of salvage lumber. At a public meeting about the fire Friday evening, he recounted watching his home burn as firefighters in the area failed to protect it.
"I'm 61 years old," he said. "I'm not a young man. I don't know where to start over. I don't know if I can."
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