People living near Jolly Mountain Fire increasingly worried as fire grows

by: Deedee Sun Updated:

CLE ELUM, Wash. - The Jolly Mountain Fire continues to grow and it's still 0 percent contained.

 

For the first time since lightning started this fire Aug. 11, fire crews bring KIRO7 to the front lines of the fire to show the work they're doing to keep people safe.

 PHOTOS: Jolly Mountain wildfire burns near Cle Elum

Though more than 800 firefighters are working 24-hour shifts, and 128 members of the National Guard arrived Wednesday to help with the effort, the fire has now burned more than 24,500 acres and continues growing every day. 

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It means the people who live in the town of Roslyn, just a few miles from the fire, are getting increasingly concerned.

Fire crews have been dealing with nearly four weeks of flames, eating up forest.

 

“This is not contained, this is the fire. This is not a backburn, this is the fire itself backing down the hillside,” said Kale Casey, the PIO for the Pacific Northwest National Command Team in Kittitas County.

Nearly 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

The mountain vegetation is crisp and dry. Fire crews say Japanese beetles have also killed six or seven out of every 10 trees – that and the dry weather has turned much of the forest into kindling.

Crews say right now, the biggest concern is that the fire has burned over the mountain ridge, and is slowly making its way down the mountain toward homes. Crews have made a huge effort to keep the ground near homes wet, and dig up vegetation leaving dirt paths around homes, so the fire will stop before it reaches any structures.

So far, no homes have been damaged.

“Our main mission is life and property,” Casey said.

Crews took advantage of low winds Wednesday to add some backburn, to eat up the fuel that keeps pushing the fire forward.

At the mountain’s base is the town of Roslyn, where about 1,000 more people are on level two evacuation status.

That means they have to be packed and ready to go, at a moment’s notice.

“Everybody in this town is just a little nervous. They don’t want to think about their homes burning down,” said Ron Lintz, who lives in the town.

He says it’s tough to cope with the constant smoke.

“It’s really bad. Your eyes burn, your throat hurts all the time, you can’t breathe,” Lintz said.

He said the fire is also keeping away from the town.

“It’s hurting business bad. This place is usually bustling from one end to the other,” he said.

Lintz says they’re putting their hopes with fire crews and Mother Nature.

“Once the embers come up there and the winds start whipping around, you don’t know where it’s going to go,” he said. “We’re hoping and praying.”

Fire crews say they'll be in the Cle Elum and Roslyn area for at least several more weeks because

after they get fire near the homes under control, they’ll start tackling the fire on the northern and western edges. But at this time, the fire is still considered 0 percent contained.

 

There will be a community meeting at the middle school in Cle Elum at 6 p.m. Thursday. 

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