Wildfire near Shelton now 40 percent contained

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SHELTON, Wash. —

A wildfire burning in Mason County is now more than 200 acres in size and 40 percent contained.

 

Investigators have determined the fire burning near Shelton was human-caused, but they haven't pinned down the exact source yet, authorities said Friday morning.

 

Authorities are investigating whether the cause of the fire is suspicious.  Fire crews confirm there was another recent fire that may have been started intentionally but don’t know if the current fire is linked to that fire.

 

No buildings have burned. Several residents were evacuated, but all have now returned to their homes.

 

The fire took off Thursday afternoon in gusty winds.  A 13-year-old spotted the fire and told his father, who called 911.  Hear the 911 call.

 

Video from Chopper 7 on Thursday afternoon showed trees exploding from flames and heat.   At times, the raging flames formed an intense wall of fire.  A line of flames burned through brush, and a large plume of smoke rose into the sky in the area of East Evergreen Drive and East Mason Lake Road.

 

The fire that started shortly after 2 p.m. twice jumped railroad tracks and was burning dangerously close to high-voltage power lines.  Three linemen from Mason County PUD were standing by to respond if lines come down.

 

The fire was threatening 25 homes near Rainbow Lake on Thursday, but the northerly wind pushed smoke and flames away from houses. The fire was moving into the Johns Creek area on Friday, but it did not grow signicantly or prompt any evacuations.

 

Initial attack on the fire was made from local agencies, including the Mason, Thurston and Grays Harbor Fire Districts, the Department of Natural Resources, Bonneville Power, Green Diamond Resources and Manke Timber Co.

 

Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #3 took over management of the fire Friday at noon, allowing local fire forces to return to their normal duties.

 

Crews hope to have a fireline around the fire by Friday night.  They are working around the clock to contain the fire.

 

The fire comes after the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for a wide area of the Puget Sound lowlands until Friday at 10 p.m.  The warning is also in effect for the central and south Cascades foothills and west slopes of Olympics through Saturday afternoon.

 

On Thursday afternoon, the DNR extended the statewide burn ban on DNR-protected lands on both sides of the Cascades until Oct. 15, citing "once-in-a-lifetime" conditions of a prolonged stretch of unusually dry weather.

 

The National Weather Service expects the current danger of extreme fire weather in Western Washington to continue into the weekend.

 

Washington has had no measureable rain in August, and September was the third driest on record. The red flag warning was spurred by a weather pattern causing relative humidity to remain uncharacteristically low overnight. The low overnight humidity causes grasses, brush and other fuels to become bone dry. 

 

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create potential for explosive fire growth.

 

There will be a public meeting about the fire on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The meeting will be at the Public Utility District facility, which is located at 2621 E. Johns Prairie Rd in Shelton.