Fires Force Evacuations in Kittitas County

<p>Courtesy Angela McPhee</p>

Courtesy Angela McPhee

Kittitas County, WA - (Kittitas Co. Sheriff) - The Table Mountain fire has prompted the Kittitas County Sheriff to designate as level-3 evacuation areas the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest east of State Highway 97, the Naneum State Forest, and the town of Liberty.

Residents of Liberty were evacuated Saturday afternoon and urged to check in with Red Cross officials at Centennial Center, 719 E. Third, in Cle Elum.  Red Cross staff will provide information about emergency shelter for evacuees as well as for livestock and pets. Horses may be boarded at the Washington State Horse Park, located just east of the Cascade Range off Interstate 90 in Cle Elum (please see www.washingtonstatehorsepark.org).

The evacuations follow a declaration of emergency by the Kittitas County Commission Saturday morning. The Washington State Patrol has approved a mobilization act, which will allow the release of additional fire apparatus and personnel and law enforcement personnel in the affected area.

Undersheriff Clay Myers said residents have been cooperating with evacuation efforts and that deputies appreciated the support in the midst of a situation that can appear particularly threatening at night.

"We've seen an uptick in emergency calls at night when fire is visible for miles and flames can appear too close for comfort," said Myers, adding that the department's top priority is the health and safety of people. "We are keeping a close, minute-to-minute watch on the fire, and if it threatens to come near homes and property, we'll let people know right away."

The expansion of the fire has forced the closure of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest east of State Highway 97. The area extends from Blewett Pass, south along Highway 97 to the vicinity of the Liberty Café, along the northern boundary of the Cle Elum Ranger District on the county line, down the eastern boundary of the Cle Elum Ranger District, and along the southern edge of the Cle Elum Ranger District. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has closed the Naneum State Forest to protect the safety of the public and firefighters, although the area is not directly threatened now.

US Forest Service or DNR roads closed due to fire, include Reecer Creek Road at Snowpark, Wilson Creek Road at the end of the county road, Coleman Canyon Road, Schnebly Canyon Road, and Cook Canyon Road.

Early Saturday morning fires in the Table Mountain area merged and now are estimated to be more than 2500 acres. This fire is being managed as part of the Yakima Complex.  By Sunday, Sept. 16, nearly 1200 firefighters will be working on the fires in Yakima and Kittitas Counties.

In Kittitas and Yakima counties firefighters are battling more than 100 fires, which were sparked by lightening last week.