Growing army of firefighters battles Mason Co. wildfire

SHELTON, Wash. - A growing army of firefighters took advantage of cool overnight temperatures to make progress in their battle against a wildfire that is threatening homes, buildings and high-voltage transmission lines near Rainbow Lake in Mason County.

But with continuing bone-dry conditions, no one is declaring victory over the blaze yet. The wildfire, which sprang up Thursday afternoon, grew to more than 200 acres during the day Friday.

The state Department of Natural Resources said critical weather conditions like these are "not seen in a lifetime."

Red flag warnings remained in effect for much of Western Washington, and the National Weather Service said vegetation is exceptionally parched due to a prolonged dry spell that has persisted since July 23.

"Fuels continue to be unseasonably dry - approaching or exceeding record dryness levels for this time of year," the Weather Service said in a special fire weather statement.

Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Sarah Foster says the Mason County fire stabilized at about 150 acres by Friday morning. But the blaze began growing again Friday as temperatures increased and the relative humidity in the area dropped from 96 percent at 8 a.m. to 16 percent at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, the army of firefighters assigned to the blaze doubled in size from 100 to about 200 as of Friday morning. The fire is considered to be about 30 percent contained.

Residents of about a dozen homes who evacuated have been allowed to return, but many were warned to be ready to leave again at a moment's notice.

"I didn't even know what to grab, honestly, other than my brother and my dogs and some paperwork," says Jennifer Johns of Rainbow Lake, who was one of those evacuated Thursday evening.

"We're ready to fight it with a hose if we have to," added Charlie Aldridge, who lives in the area.

Meanwhile, crews continue to keep a watchful eye on the fire, which is also threatening a high-voltage transmission line operated by the Bonneville Power Administration.

Officials said the emphasis on Friday will be to protect homes and power lines if the fire starts acting up again.