Washington State fire assistance was mobilized 2:46 pm Saturday to help local firefighters working to contain the Bofer Canyon Fire near Kennewick. A burning grass and brush fire threatened 250 acres and spread to homes, crops, and infrastructure; Level 2 and 3 evacuations were in effect.
Mobilization specialists from the Fire Protection Bureau ordered air resources, dropped water from planes and employed two wildland strike teams set up at The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray.
At the Bofer Canyon Fire briefing, Kennewick Fire Chief, Vince Beasley said the fire started in Bofer Canyon and came over the hill into the city of Kennewick. With help from surrounding fire and police departments, and cooperation from the State Automatic and Mutual Aid, it was under control enough for residents to return to their homes by 7 pm.
“The wind was a huge factor; 30 mile an hour gusts with embers and flames shooting over the top of us. We almost lost an engine; it was challenging, the more wind, the more difficult the job is.”
Four to five homes were lost, an unconfirmed amount of garages, two horse fatalities, one minor injury, but no firefighter or police officers were hurt.
At this time, the total acreage burned is too early to estimate.
Chief Beasley stated he could have lost hundreds in this wind, but they didn’t. He judges severity of a fire by injury and fatality, and credited the fire’s halt that came within feet of structures on 45th and Ely, with the aggressive tactics by police and fire fighters.
“The basic strategy was to limit the damage, stop it from jumping the highway. When it got into the city of Kennewick, our number one concern was the citizens, health and structures, and that’s what we turned all our resources on at that point.”
When asked if the fires were all in the same location, Chief Beasley concluded, “There was distance between all the structure fires and that just shows you how much force the wind has. While we were focusing on one fire, there’s other involved.”
He added that he did not know how the Bofer Canyon fire got started but was proud how the community came together, brought food and liquids to rehab and support fire crews.
“We lost a bunch of homes, but think about what we didn’t lose.”
Spot checks continued throughout the night in Kennewick to keep an eye on homes.
More information about the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan is available at: http://www.wsp.wa.gov/draft-all-risk-mobilization/.