• Boylston Fire 80 percent contained; one home destroyed

    By: Deborah Horne


    ELLENSBURG, Wash. - Firefighters say they have gotten the upper hand on the Boylston Fire burning east of Ellensburg.  

    Now the fire fight is reaching the mop up stage as all evacuation orders are lifted.

    The Boylston Fire has burned more than 71,000 acres in just two days.

    But this fire is now 80 percent contained, and firefighters say it will likely be fully contained July 24. 

    Even at a distance, firefighters were visibly hard at work on the Boylston Fire. They have made so much progress, that the Ryegrass Rest Area has reopened. Still, drivers at milepost 126 seemed to have missed that there was a fire here at all.

    "To be honest, I didn't even pay attention to it," said Dan Lewis. "No, I did not. Maybe I've been on the road too long. I'm headed back to Indiana.

    But Drew Keenan didn't miss it.

    "In fact, we could see how it was on both sides of the highway," Keenan said.

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    He and his friends stopped on their way from Portland. Just 24 hours ago, they wouldn't have been able to stay on I-90.  Wind-driven flames jumped across the major east-west highway, closing it for hours.

    "We didn't know if we'd be able to get through," Keenan said.

    The weather made a dramatic turn overnight. The wind died down, the temperatures dropped and the humidity rose just enough to give firefighters the upper hand.

    "Conditions are much more favorable," said Dr. Daniel Omdal, state department of natural resources forest pathologist. "You can see some firefighters up on the hill. They're actually directly approaching the fire. They can get very, very close. The wind has died down. The humidity is up a little bit. And it allows him to get a little bit closer to the fire, building fire lines, containing the active fire."

    Besides a home, three outbuildings were destroyed at the height of the Boylston Fire, and the Wanapum State Park, 10 miles to the east in Vantage, remains closed.

    But the number of firefighters is down to 261 from 300 on Friday, and it is expected to drop even more after tonight.

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