Highway reopens in Washington state after wildfire, but a second blaze sparks evacuations

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 21, 2015 3:57 PM

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A U.S. interstate re-opened in central Washington state on Tuesday after firefighters beat back a brush fire that had threatened area houses, while another blaze sparked evacuations and destroyed a home in an eastern agricultural region, officials said.

Flames from a wind-whipped wildfire, which have blackened about 900 acres (364 hectares) of bone-dry grass and sage brush since erupting over the weekend, leapt across Interstate 90 on Monday and forced officials to close the highway and order residents to briefly leave about three dozen homes.

There were no reports of injuries or structural damage, although a load of hay on a semi-trailer caught fire on a road near the interstate after the driver fled to safety.

Interstate 90 opened on Tuesday morning as firefighters aided by softer winds managed to contain 40 percent of the blaze, Grant County Sheriff's Office spokesman Kyle Foreman said.

In an agricultural and wine-producing region farther east, a helicopter pilot dropping water on a blaze burning unchecked made an emergency landing amid a mechanical failure, Walla Walla County Emergency Management spokeswoman Patty Courson said. The pilot walked away unscathed.

That fire, which has blackened about 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) of parched timber and sage brush, destroyed one home in the Klicker Mountain area, where about 120 residents remained under evacuation orders, after erupting in a wheat field, Courson said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Lisa Lambert)