BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — A phased reentry plan has been established for people living near the Sumner Grade Fire in western Washington.
The Bonney Lake Police Department released new information Thursday evening. Some residents are still in Level 3, which means they aren’t cleared to reenter their homes, but other evacuation areas have now been lifted.
The fire is 20% contained. It has scorched close to 800 acres and burned multiple homes.
Bonney Lake’s police chief made a rough estimate for reporters that about 2,500 households were under evacuation orders.
But earlier, smaller estimates of the fire size were not considered as accurate, and officials said the fire did not grow beyond its previous boundaries on Wednesday.
For firefighters, they are working another long, unseasonably hot day using heavy machinery to churn soil and extinguish any lingering flames.
Helicopter crews have also been busy, dropping water on hot spots that flare up. They dumped 125,000 gallons of water on the Sumner Grade Fire on Wednesday.
“I watched chopper after chopper bringing in water to dump on the fire, so that makes it quite surreal to be around that,” said Robert Kennedy. “I applaud their efforts; it was great to stop it from coming any further.”
Kennedy lives about a football field away from the fire. He said the worst part was not knowing what he’d come home to.
“The next morning I fully expected to see rubble and smoke, but all I saw was some smoke and the house and the shop and was pretty elated to know that it was still standing,” he said.
When the Sumner Grade Fire exploded Tuesday afternoon amid hot temperatures and low humidity, it jumped across state Route 410 in Bonney Lake, a four-lane highway.
Two of the homes destroyed in the fire were lost soon after the flames crossed the road.
“I think when a lot of us saw that, we were like, ‘It’s time to get out of here,’” said Pablo Pescador, who lives in the Sky Island subdivision.
His family’s Level 2 evacuation suddenly jumped to a Level 3 evacuation, and they spent the night with friends.
On Wednesday, they returned for a few more things.
“If our home goes, it’s just a house, but the worst part is leaving and not knowing what you’ll come back to find,” Pescador said.
Gov. Jay Inslee visited the fire line Wednesday and thanked firefighters for their work.
The governor said he is declaring a statewide fire emergency and signing a proclamation to allow families affected by fires to get cash assistance.
He acknowledged there aren’t many more firefighters to call up to help.
“California, Oregon and Washington — we are all in the same soup of cataclysmic fire. And the reason we are in the same soup is because the grass is so dry, the temperature is so hot and the winds are so heavy,” Inslee said.
Bud Backer, the chief of East Pierce Fire and Rescue, said Wednesday that he is so short on people, a medic unit without firefighting gear had to go to a fire call, and a neighboring department had to fight a fire at a Sumner mobile home park, where four homes burned.
“To be blunt, it’s meant we couldn’t answer other emergency calls when we’re fighting this fire,” Backer said.
Backer said after the state mobilization on the Sumner Grade Fire, he received about 29 additional people.
State Route 410 remains closed in the area from 166th Avenue East in Sumner to Veterans Memorial Drive East in Bonney Lake.
Fire officials say the fire will take days to deal with as the wind pushes flames and embers around the area and toward homes.
Meanwhile, Wednesday night, a brush fire in a field behind the Target in Bonney Lake prompted evacuations.
Homes within a three-block radius of the store in the 19200 block of Old Buckley Highway East were evacuated. All businesses on either side of 192nd Avenue East were evacuated as well.
The fire is not related to the Sumner Grade Fire. It was quickly put out, and people were allowed to return to their homes.
The cause of the fire is not known.