Watermelon Hill Fire Update Shows Improvement

By Paige Browning

In eastern Washington, the Watermelon Hill fire that started Friday is no longer threatening homes, but is creeping up to a resort area. The fire is burning about 7 miles southwest of Cheney, and grew into Spokane County over the weekend.

The Watermelon Hill fire is now 40 percent contained at 11,000 acres in size. Public Information Officer Chuck Turley says homes are no longer under mandatory evacuation notices, but evacuations are in order at the Fish Trap Lake resort. As far as damage, he says two barns were ruined on the first night, but rumors about the railroad being destroyed are not true.
 
Turley: “That’s not the case. There are about 200 rail road ties on the stretch of track going through the fire that will need to be replaced. But they’re spread out enough that the tracks are still usable. So the trains are running on the Union Pacific through the fire.”
 
Turley says about 300 firefighters are working hard to strengthen a fire containment line around most of the fire. He says the big challenge this week, even with cooler temperatures, will be wind.
 
Officially, the fire’s cause is under investigation, but the Lincoln County sheriff’s Office says the fire was started by three people shooting exploding targets, in yellow truck with a black stripe.
 
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio
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