Nearly 1,000 Kittitas Valley residents remain under evacuation, unable to return to their homes due to the Taylor Bridge Fire near Cle Elum, but officials are optimistic they're getting a handle on the wildfire.
Fire officials were hoping to have the 22,000 acre fire -- the size of the fire being downgraded from 28,000 earlier in the day -- at 25-percent containment by Wendesday evening.
Incident commander Rex Reed said Wednesday afternoon that the Taylor Bridge Fire had scorched about 22,000 acres. By the end of Wednesday Reed said about 900 people would be working to suppress the fire, aided by three heavy air tankers, six helicopters and bulldozers.
Residents in the Hidden Valley area have been watching smoke since the start of the work week.
"The closer I got, the closer I got I said 'That's our mountain,'" Jeanne Ballard said.
Ballard hasn't slept much in the last two nights as the Taylor Bridge fire burned closer and closer to her home. So far 70 other families' homes have been destroyed by the fire.
"When you see flames shooting up in the air it gets real scary and everything is super dry around here," Ballard said.
Ballard hasn't been ordered to evacuate yet, but she's ready.
"We have a bag packed for each one of my kids and took all of our pictures down and things that are valuable and ready to go if it happens," she said.
Ballard is lucky to still be at home. Residents like Bill Essex aren't allowed back to their homes.
The fire stretches for 16 miles, with trouble spots on the north at Lookout Mountain and on the south at Elk Heights. Essex took precautions to protect his home from fire.
"Firefighters say I've got a real good chance of surviving because of what I've done," he said.
For now, Essex is staying with friends and waiting for the call to head back to see if his home survived. In the Kittitas Valley, with so many homes lost, it's hard not to know someone who has lost something to the fire.
"I would imagine we have a lot of friends that have lost homes. Even if they haven't lost they're homes it's smoke damage. Smoke was just barreling up there," Jeanne Ballard said.
Homeowner Korre Benson is waiting, with binoculars and phone, staying in his camper a safe distance away from his home.
"Trying to keep an eye on my house that's being threatened by this fire," Benson said. "It swept 20 feet away from the house."
Benson knows he's been lucky so far. When he had to evacuate, he was forced to prioritize his life: "Grab a few of the important things and kiss everything else goodbye."
Angie Livers was told to leave. She chose to wait it out.
"We were visited yesterday about noon by the sheriff's department and they said it was the last time they were coming through here and they told us to evacuate," Livers said.
Livers is waiting the fire out, watching air crews fight the fire from above.
"We are all packed up and ready to go, we are not willing to leave yet because we can't take everything with us," she explained.
While Livers' home is still standing, looking out at the rest of the Kittitas Valley, one doesn't see rolling hills with lush vegetation, trees, sagebrush anymore. The valley now looks more like a barren, blackened scorched Earth.
"Our beautiful valley is just being destroyed. It's so sad."
It could be some time before authorities know exactly how extensive the property damage the Taylor Bridge Fire left in its wake.