CLE ELUM, Wash. - The Taylor Bridge Fire was 90 percent contained Tuesday night, officials told KIRO 7's Gary Horcher.
Firefighters hoped to fully contain the week-old wildfire that's burned dozens of homes in Cle Elum and caused an estimated $8.3 million in property damage.
Strong winds on Monday slowed fire crews from making much progress on fires north and northwest perimeter of the fire.
A plan for so-called burnouts -- controlled burns -- didn't happen, despite reports at midday that firefighters had begun the burnout operation.
"It's not working in our favor," public information officer Mick Mueller said. "If things had been at an optimum, it would have been such that the wind would have been pushing up slope, we would have lit the bottom and then it would have consumed that fuel back into the fire. It's not. It's working against us."
Fire crews also tried to do a burnout operation on Sunday but winds interfered, said KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Alexandra Limon.
The cost of fighting the fire had escalated to $7 million and counting as of Monday night, officials said. Based on property records, the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office has estimated the total loss of homes in the fire at around $8 million. The official count from the Department of Natural Resources is that 51 homes or cabins have been destroyed, and six others have been damaged.
Firefighters dealt with flare-ups and spot fires in the so-called black area Monday, where the fire burned previously. Flare-ups can happen from embers or tree stumps.
Some people who live in the burned area were allowed back into their homes.
"We're putting a perimeter around each structure in those areas and around the fire, so it's going to take us a long time," said Tim Percifuld, a fire spokesman. "We're going to be here for a while. Even though the fire is not actively burning, we're going to be here working in the black areas is what we call it."
Crews are made headway establishing new fire lines, but the fire was burning in very steep terrain, making it difficult to get firefighters on the ground there, said Limon.
There are no new evacuations.
Firefighters hope to contain the fire on Tuesday.
KIRO 7 reporter Kevin McCarty spoke with residents who have been evacuated from their homes since the fire started on Monday and they are trying to adjust to what has been lost.
“A house is a house and it’s just the whole picture, and I feel for everybody else, everybody that’s lost their homes,” said resident John Berglud.
Some residents witnessed their neighbors lose their property.
“Yes, I’m ready for it to end, but you know what, it’s going to be a long time before it ends for the neighbors in here that have lost their houses and that have the damage,” said evacuee Carolyn Berglund.
Residents and volunteers have gathered to help out and some facilities are taking donations for families that need help feeding and caring for pets and livestock displaced by the fire.
Kat Linton traveled from Seattle to volunteer.
“It’s a pretty big catastrophe to have happen and to deal with it all of the sudden. It is hard to deal with. You’re caught off guard. I can only imagine if this happened in Seattle what we’d all be doing with our pets,” Linton said.
Many residents will start returning to their homes and they spoke with KIRO 7 reporter Bob Robuck about their losses.
“We lost a labor of love. We lost a very small cabin that we made with all materials that came out of the valley here,” said homeowner Kraig Schwartz.
During a town hall meeting, many of the residents still had hope and motivation to move forward even though they lost their homes.
“We’ll have to think about what’s next, maybe earth shelter or something like that,” said resident Ann Hirschi.
Michael Grant lost everything he owned in the fire, but the flames didn’t touch his 1976 Ford Ranchero.
“Nothing’s left, except that [the car],” said Grant. “He took the kids and got them out, and I just kind of hung around and made sure the rest, and helped a couple of the neighbors try to get out.”
All the residents told KIRO 7 since the fire started, they were most worried about their neighbors even though they lost their own property.