More evacuations ordered as fire near Goldendale grows

More evacuations ordered as fire near Goldendale grows »Play Video
The Mile Marker 28 Fire (Photo courtesy inciweb.org)

GOLDENDALE, Wash. – A tough to fight fire near Goldendale, Wash. forced more than 150 evacuations.

The Mile Marker 28 fire, as it is known, is now burning nearly 5,000 acres of steep terrain. Families in 30 homes had previously been evacuated, and late Friday residents in 150 more homes were told they also needed to get out.

Fire officials said the fire mainly grew to the east overnight, but also creeped to the south. It is three percent contained.

The fire also has Highway 97 closed between Goldendale and Toppenish, Wash. The Washington Department of Transportation tweeted a photo showing how the fire burned right up to the highway and destroyed a guardrail.

(The road closure could prove problematic for concert-goers heading from Oregon or Southwest Washington to the Gorge Amphitheater for Phish concerts on Friday and Saturday.)

Firefighters are still trying to build lines to contain the fire that broke out Monday, burning grass, brush and pine trees, said spokeswoman Janet Pearce in Olympia.

One structure — an old forest look-out — has been lost, Pearce said.

It's not yet clear where or how this fire started. Dozens more homes are at risk as more than 100 firefighters try to get a handle on the flames ripping through the forest.

Additional fire crews are expected Saturday to protect the threatened structures.

Beth family hass Monastery been on property in the area since the late 1800s. She has been watching the fire creep over a ridge since Wednesday.

This isn't her first time dealing with a large fire; two years ago the Monestary Fire roared up to near their property. You can still see burned trees nearby.

In addition to her family, she will also have to move sheep and other animals if they're forced to leave.

"A lot of people in this community are keeping an eye on the radio, TV, the Internet, whatever they can access to stay abreast of what's going on because you just never know," Schroder said. "The weather can change, the wind can shift and it can be on you in no time."

KATU meteorologist Dave Salesky said firefighters are dealing with temperatures in the upper 90s and wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour. Salesky said he doesn't expect conditions to improve over the weekend.

Firefighter said the biggest challenges so far have been the weather. There is a “red flag” warning for the area, which means meteorologists think conditions are ripe for a fire to spread.

Joan Felton lives along Highway 97 in Toppenish. A 50 mile stretch of the roadway is closed from Goldendale towards her home. From her backyard, she can typically see the mountain range that is now burning. A cloud of smoke blocks that view.

"It's just scary because I have to go find someplace else to be," said neighbor Joan Felton.

Felton's home isn't immediately at risk, but her asthma is forcing her to leave. She worries about the homeowners who could lose it all.

"I just feel bad for them. I understand how they feel," she said. "That's horrible. It's a horrible feeling to possibly lose everything."

This summer's extreme heat isn't helping. Parched trees and brush have become ample fuel for fire. Felton said the fright of a fire so close to home is a scary reality.

KATU reporter Mary Loos and KIMA reporter Matt Finn contributed to this report