Even for those whose homes were saved, fire danger looms

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James Ihrke cleans red fire retardant off his car after it was dropped from a plane as part of the Taylor Bridge Fire fight. The sticky chemical coated his home, too, and possibly saved his property from being consumed by the flames.
CLE ELUM, Washington —

Just a stone’s throw from where the Taylor Bridge Fire withered homes to black earth, a KIRO 7 crew found one house and yard unburned, and coated in blood-red sticky fire-retardant.

“My house was saved via a two-ton paint job delivered by an airplane,” homeowner James Ihrke said. “I’m gonna have to rent a pressure washer in order to get it off.”

He said he feels fortunate for being bathed in protection, but like many of his neighbors, he figured there was no hope.

“I fully expected to come up here, see two burned-out husks of cars and a burned-out house right here, with molten metal sitting on top,” he said.

Still, in the ravaged area where neighbors were just getting to come back in Monday, no one is feeling safe.

The worry over continued loss is far from over. The winds were blowing right through the neighborhood Monday, and that means people like Ihrke are waiting, because at any moment, they could get a knock on the door and an order to evacuate.

Firefighters had nearly 60 percent of the blaze contained Monday, but they were also on the lookout for burning embers, which could potentially rekindle new sudden danger.

As neighbors deal with that danger, though, there is also goodwill.

“Others are offering their houses, offering cars, telling me, ‘I’m good; go take care of them,’” said Brad Peterson with the Red Cross.

Residents of the area had a private meeting with FEMA on Monday night where those dealing with loss were told not to even clean up their damage yet.

“It’s hard to know how to prepare,” said Margaret Schober, one of the evacuees. “I mean, you prepare as much as you can, but you can’t take your whole house with you.”

Many said FEMA is being very responsive, but the agency can’t process all claims in the area until the threat of more fires is over.