Rochester fire: Smoke lingers, losses tallied

Saturday, August 26, 2017 at 10:44 pm
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Map of Scatter Creek Fire area. / West Thurston Regional Fire Authority

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Crews continue to work to fully extinguish fires in Rochester and are likely to be doing so for at least another 10 days, Thurston County officials said today.

Active fire still exists in the northern part of the Scatter Creek fire and suppression continues there, in the event that began Tuesday afternoon and covered an estimated 485 acres.

A second fire that broke out late yesterday afternoon off Prather Road Southwest in grass, brush and timber was quickly attacked with 45 firefighters, two helicopters and a bulldozer and contained at just under two and half acres, according to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

At one point a home was threatened but fortunately, firefighters were able to prevent flames from reaching the residence and it was not damaged, WTRFA stated last night on its Facebook page.

The blaze on Department of Natural Resources trust land appears to have been started by a downed power line, according to WTRFA.

The overall command post has moved from Rochester High School to West Thurston Regional Fire Authority’s station on Sargent Road. State mobilization resources departed at 6 o’clock this morning, leaving DNR to manage the fires.

The public is asked to use extra caution when driving in the area.

Thurston County officials continue to remind the community that it’s not uncommon to smell and see smoke coming from hot spots and they ask the public to call 911 only if flames are visible.

This will likely continue for several weeks, according to Thurston County Public Information Officer Megan Porter.

While evacuees were allowed to return to their homes by Wednesday, two residences were lost in the Scatter Creek fire, according to Porter.

Also lost was a commercial building on Southwest 183rd Avenue and Loganberry Street, two outbuildings, six pieces of heavy equipment, three semi trailers, two commercial vehicles, two personal vehicles and many utility poles.

A historical cabin and barn were lost as well.

The Miller-Brewer House which was built around 1860 was sited at the southeast corner of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. Its address was 17915 Guava St. SW.

It was described as one of Washington’s few remaining territorial settlement-era box (plank) constructed houses, conveying the technology and materials available during the state’s formative period, in a 2007 report prepared for Thurston County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The building and the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area is owned and managed by WSDFW.

WSDFW yesterday reported it is still assessing damage to the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area, which accounted for 345 acres of the fire’s damage.

The area provides sanctuary for several threatened and endangered wildlife species and is a destination for hiking, birdwatching, dog training and upland bird hunting.

“This fire is truly a tragedy,” Brian Calkins, regional WDFW wildlife manager stated. “We put our heart and soul into restoring this remaining piece of rare native prairie, and we know a lot of people are going to feel this loss as much as we do.”

Thurston County Emergency Management reported the location where Tuesday’s fire began was near Southwest 183rd Avenue, between Guava Street and Case Road.

Crews are expected to be monitoring the areas for any possible lingering fire for the rest of the summer.

Lewis County officials issued a statement late this week reminding the public an outdoor burn ban remains in place, and urged people to use caution if using outdoor power equipment or tools which could produce sparks.

The National Weather Service says a fire weather watch is in effect tomorrow through Tuesday on the west slopes of the central Cascade Mountains, with very hot, dry and unstable conditions forecast.
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For background, read “No injuries, but structures burned in Rochester” from Wednesday August 23, 2017, here

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Miller-Brewer House. / From 2007 report prepared for Thurston County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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