Fire in Columbia County reaches 11,500 acres

The blaze, believed to have rekindled from a previous fire, swept north to the Garfield County line.

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DAYTON -- Containment on the Hubbard Command Fire was uncertain as of Friday morning, but fire officials expected to have a report this afternoon on the 11,500 acres fire located east about 15 miles east of Dayton.

Fire officials reported a barn was damaged, but no injuries or evacuations have been reported so far.

The fire originally started Wednesday afternoon when a combine set off a 50-acre blaze that was mostly put out in two hours. But less than 24 hours later on Thursday afternoon, 30 mph gusts and low humidity rekindled the fire located north from Patit Road into the Tucannon River drainage near Marengo to the Garfield County line.

"Evidently, as we were putting the fire out we didn't get it completely extinguished," Columbia County Fire District 3 Chief Rick Turner said. "It's been a long day and a long night," he said.

On Frid ay morning, the Columbia County Fairgrounds was turned into Hubbard Command Fire incident management team headquarters, and roughly 100 firefighters, most from Pierce and King counties, were brought in to help fight the fire.

Cool temperatures overnight and an easing of the winds helped to halt the fire's advance, Turner said. Along with the barn, some grain and grassland was also damaged.

Residents were alerted to possible evacuations, but those never occurred, Columbia County Emergency Management Director Bill Peters said Friday morning.

Area fire departments sent available crews from Walla Walla County Fire Districts 4, 5 and 8, the city of Walla Walla, College Place, Garfield County, Columbia County Fire District 1 (Starbuck) and Columbia County/Walla Walla County joint Fire District 2 (Waitsburg).

Turner was looking forward to going to bed after lunch, although he still has two days of harvest to complete.

He also noted that Wednesday's fire was caused by residual harvest dust that collected in the engine compartment of a combine. And he added that excessive harvest dust is a common hazard during high-yield years.

This was the fifth fire call Fire District 3 firefighters have had this week.

Mobilization of state fire fighting resources was authorized by Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday at the request of Columbia County Fire District 3.

The command center set-up displaced Columbia County fair volunteers who were at the fairgrounds Thursday evening working on preparing for the fair, which is Sept. 10-12.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at cec@innw.net or 522-5289.

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