Ryegrass Coulee Fire creates long night for campers, first responders

Ryegrass Coulee Fire creates long night for campers, first responders
Photo posted by the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office on Facebook. 

The entire town of Vantage in central Washington had be evacuated Monday night as wildfire flames got dangerously close.

One Southern California woman was in the middle of an RV trip to Michigan and thought the west bank of the Columbia in Vantage was a good spot to rest for the night. She was wrong.

“At about 1 o’clock in the morning all I could smell was smoke,” said Enid Lind. “About 2 am, and I really had not gone to sleep yet, there was a loud knock on my door and it was a police officer telling me I was in a stage 3 evacuation zone.”

After going over a plan, Enid had the officer’s blessing to stay on the river through the night, while fire roared to her north, south and west.

At the same time, the day was just starting for one Spokane County Firefighter

“We got the call about 2 AM to come in and assist Fire District 4 and Kittitas Valley fire,” explained Tom Hatley. “I was part of the incident management team that ended up coming in on this fire.”

Thanks to swift inter-agency cooperation; I-90 was closed as the fire swept through the valley just west of the Vantage bridge. Fortunately, the Ryegrass Coulee fire stuck mostly to grass lands – claiming just one outbuilding. Hatley credits the excellent communication between state officials.

“Working with State Patrol, Department of Transportation, other fire agencies, the state fire Marshal,” Hatley said. “To come in here and make a seamless shift change is really positive.”

Thanks to the swift work of first responders – Monday night is just a story for one camper to pass on to her friends.

“Oh I’ve had some fun,” Enid said. “Like I said, being from California, this is kind of deja vu.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the cause of the fire is still under investigation, with an estimated 1,600 acres burnt.