UPDATES: Central Washington Fires Make Travel Tough In Vantage – Ellensburg Corridor
BY ANNA KING & SCOTT LEADINGHAM
Three major wildfires are burning in central Washington near the Columbia River in Kittitas and Grant counties. And the fires could make getting to a big three-day Phish concert at the Gorge Amphitheater more difficult.
UPDATE, Friday, July 20, 10 p.m.: All eastbound and westbound lanes of I-90 are back open between Vantage and Kittitas, according to the Washington Department of Transportation and State Patrol.
All I-90 eastbound lanes are open from MP 115 (Kittitas). The eastbound Ryegrass rest area (MP 126) will remained closed. Please use caution if you observe fire crews working on or near the shoulder of the roadway. https://t.co/o7DW5zIizW
— Trooper Brian Moore (@wspd6pio) July 21, 2018
BOYLSTON FIRE (EAST OF ELLENSBURG)
The so-called Boylston Fire is burning east of Ellensburg and had closed I-90 eastbound between Kittitas and Vantage. One eastbound lane is now open as of 4 p.m. Friday.
Westbound I-90 lanes were reopened Friday morning after being closed Thursday afternoon through the night. The Vantage Highway is open as an alternative route.
It marks the third time in two weeks lanes of I-90 between Vantage and Kittitas have closed due to fire activity in the area.
Opening delayed for another 15-20 minutes (approx. 3:50 pm). Thanks for your patience. We want to do this as safely as possible. https://t.co/oWPIZICrDK
— Trooper Brian Moore (@wspd6pio) July 20, 2018
So far, the Boylston fire has charred an estimated 70,000 acres with expected growth on the U.S. military’s Yakima Training Center.
BUCKSHOT FIRE (NEAR MATTAWA)
Another fire is burning nearby Mattawa in the small Columbia River community of Desert Aire in Grant County.
The Buckshot Fire has burned at least 1,000 acres as of Friday afternoon.
L-ROAD (VERNITA BRIDGE/HANFORD REACH)
Yet another fire nearby is burning a little further south along the Columbia River at the Vernita Bridge. That fire started across the river from the Hanford nuclear cleanup site. Called the L-Road Fire, it’s burnt nearly 30,000 acres as of Friday afternoon and had spread to the Hanford Reach National Monument.
Fire officials say winds were lighter Friday compared to yesterday when the fires started and spread quickly. But they’re still concerned because the sagebrush and grassland fuels are so dried out.
This marks the second year the state Department of Natural Resources has pushed for legislation to expand Washington’s firefighting efforts. This time DNR is seeking $125 million every two years, during a legislative session complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading Washington Lands Agency Seeks Big Funding Bill To Combat Increasingly Bigger Fire Seasons
In the decades since government restrictions reduced logging on federal lands, the timber industry has promoted the idea that private lands are less prone to wildfires, saying that forests thick with trees fuel bigger, more destructive blazes. But an analysis by OPB and ProPublica shows last month’s fires burned as intensely on private forests with large-scale logging operations as they did, on average, on federal lands that cut fewer trees. Continue Reading Despite What The Logging Industry Says, Cutting Down Trees Isn’t Stopping Catastrophic Wildfires
COVID-related aid and police reform will be two of the major issues before the Washington legislature when it convenes next month. But newly-reelected Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz hopes legislators will also consider dedicating more funding for wildfire and forest health projects. Continue Reading Washington Lands Commissioner Works To Engage Lawmakers On Fire Funding Ahead Of Session