Keller-area blaze grows to 1,000 acres

— Fire crews are trying to keep the growing Twenty-One Mile Grade Fire at bay, but the blaze has grown to about 1,000 acres.

The fire is burning 25 miles north of town — about 10 miles south of Republic — on the Colville Indian Reservation off state Highway 21.

At 6 a.m. today, the Mount Tolman tribal fire agency handed off incident command to state Interagency Incident Management Team 5, led by Bruce Holloway.

"Firefighters are dealing with treacherous terrain and hot temperatures," Mount Tolman spokeswoman Kathy Moses said this morning. "Yesterday, crews built dozer lines along the southwest corner of the fire at 21 Mile Road tying into a natural rock barrier and digging hand lines toward the north.'

Airplanes have been dropping fire retardant on the northern and eastern edges of the fire, along steep rocky slopes, she said. And helitack teams are dropping water on hot spots.

As of 10 a.m., the fire was 0 percent contained.

Four Type II and two Type I fire crews have been assigned to the fire, as have 10 engines, two dozers, three water tenders, two fallers, two helicopters and an airplane, officials said. More than 200 firefighters are already on scene.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

State officials are advising motorists to plan for smoky conditions on the highway. They are also warning motorists to be aware of an oil spill cleanup area along the highway not too far from the fire.

Traffic has been reduced to one lane in the clean-up area, and motorists should expect a 20-minute wait.

"Travelers are advised to drive with extreme caution," Moses said of both the fire and oil spill clean up areas.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning — meaning hot, dry windy conditions could lead to rapid wildfire growth — through Saturday.

Sustained winds of 10-18 mph are expected, with gusts of up to 30 mph, meteorologists said.

The winds are expected to be the strongest from 2-11 p.m. Saturday.


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