Crews make progress on Taylor Bridge Fire; gusts fuel concerns

CLE ELUM, Wash. -- Firefighters began burnout operations on the destructive Taylor Bridge Fire on Monday as milder temperatures and increased humidity fueled hopes of having the fire fully contained by Tuesday.

However, with gusts reaching 30 mph sweeping across the region Monday afternoon, fire officials remained concerned about erratic winds halting progress. Swirling winds kept ground teams from cutting a fire break, leaving air support to take on much of the fight.

"The winds have been gusting and going across slope more, so it's not working in our favor," said Mick Mueller of the U.S. Forest Service.

The 23,225-acre fire was 57-percent contained as of Monday evening. Fire crews eliminated some 200 acres of potential fuel in the northwest section west of Hidden Valley Road and south of Lambert Road.

And crews battling the southeastern section of the blaze mopped up an estimated 24 miles of perimeter some 300 feet into the burned area.

More than 1,052 firefighters were called to the blaze that destroyed more than 70 homes and forced hundreds of area residents to flee their homes.

But resident Cal Tomicich chose to stand his ground even as his neighbors fled. With his own two hands, Tomicich built the home of his dreams on Lookout Mountain, and he is not about to lose it to a wildfire.

"Like if the fire was coming up this hill, one of the things I've been doing is hitting all these bushes," he said outside his home. "It ain't easy, but then firefighting never was easy."

The retired Seattle firefighter set up a pump that draws water from troughs staged around his property. He runs it through 100 feet of hose, and mixes it with a foam concentrate.

Tomicich hopes the flames never reach his foam barrier, but that depends on Mother Nature. The former firefighter, who knows things can change drastically in an instant, said he is ready to evacuate if the time ever comes.

"Have your albums by your front door, and get in your car and go," he said. ?

Meanwhile, a wildfire near Wenatchee has grown to just over 1 square mile.

The Keane Ranch fire is burning in grass, brush and timber. Crews have dug lines along three sides of the fire, which is about 60 percent contained. The fire has not threatened or damaged any structures.

The blaze was reported just after 1 p.m. Sunday. The cause is believed to be lightning.

Two firefighters are also monitoring a wildfire burning near the confluence of Lost River and Monument Creek, nearly 20 miles northwest of Winthrop. The blaze, also started by lightning, is burning in steep terrain in the Pasayten Wilderness.

A lack of safe access prevents firefighters from tackling the blaze directly. Portions of the Monument Creek Trail are closed due to the fire, which has burned about 50 acres.

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