flames

KELLER – A fire burning southwest of town in the Hellgate Game Preserve had blackened nearly 2,500 acres of land within its first 11 hours on Friday, Aug. 2.

The Williams Flats Fire was reported at 3:23 a.m. Friday approximately seven miles southeast of Keller and north of the Columbia River within the Colville Indian Reservation.

Cause of the fire is under investigation, said the Mount Tolman Fire Center.

One home is threatened. A Level 3 (get out now) evacuation alert has been issued.

As of mid-afternoon Friday, the blaze was zero percent contained.

Ground firefighting resources included two 12-person crews, two bulldozers and one Type 6 engine. In the air were one air attack craft, four fire bosses, two Type 1 tankers, one VLAP and one lead plane.

Firefighting crews are from the Colville Confederated Tribes and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, although a Type 2 incident command team from Oregon was expected to arrive Friday evening. Base camp will be at the Keller Community Center.

A red flag warning was in effect Friday, with winds expected at 10-20 mph and gusts of 25 mph.

“A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create extreme fire growth potential,” said the Mount Tolman announcement.

The fire is fueled by fallen dead trees, grass, sage and bitterbrush. Limited access to the fire is an issue.

Initial suppression efforts included building hand lines, dozer lines and using existing roads. Helicopters and winged aircraft cooled hot spots to allow ground forces time to arrive.

On-the-ground firefighters are dealing with extremely steep rocky slopes and rattlesnakes, officials said.

Tribal natural resource law enforcement officers ask boaters to stay clear of firefighting efforts near the Lake Roosevelt Recreational Area.

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