By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
By Wednesday morning, firefighters reported confidently that they had Grand Mound’s Scatter Creek Fire mostly under control, with 100 percent of the blaze contained by fire lines.
The previous evening was a different story, in which numerous agencies worked to corral the massive fire as winds pushed it to what Thurston County estimated Wednesday as 485 acres.
Seven buildings were lost, including four homes, two barns and a business.
“We can’t read fire very well when Mother Nature decides she’s going to take hold of it and be the boss,” said Capt. Lanette Dyer, of the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.
Fire crews no sooner set up in the path of the growing brush fire Tuesday afternoon in an effort to fight it strategically than the quickly shifting wind would set it blazing in another direction.
The fire reached a stand of timber along Interstate 5 and jumped all six lanes with a gust of wind, she said.
About 24 hours after the fire started, officials still only had limited information about the total acreage burned and buildings lost.
Leadership from area fire districts and the Department of Natural Resources met Wednesday morning at Rochester High School — repurposed for the time being as an incident command center and meeting place for displaced residents — to discuss their next steps.
The state’s Northwest Incident Management Team began taking over command and coordination of forces Wednesday morning.
“We’re going to put some boots on the ground and they’re going to be walking the perimeter,” Dyer told The Chronicle.
Firefighters assigned that task monitored the fire lines and looked for still-smoldering hot spots. Another group was assigned to assess all of the structures in the area to get a firm number of structures damaged or lost. Emergency responders went door to door asking about damage.
Crews used GPS to determine the total acreage burned.
“Today, our goal is, we will work on the objective of identifying exactly what those structures are,” Dyer told The Chronicle Wednesday.
The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation.
The fire was first reported at 1:33 p.m. Tuesday in the area of the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area in Grand Mound near 183rd Avenue between Guava Street and Case Road, according to a news release from Thurston County.
Local fire districts were dispatched through mutual aid agreements to the intersection of 183rd Avenue and Wakely Lane in Grand Mound about an hour later.
Firefighters from agencies in Thurston, Pierce, Mason, Grays Harbor and Lewis counties fought the fire, along with crews from DNR and personnel from the state Department of Corrections, Puget Sound Energy, Thurston County Public Works and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
By 4 p.m., the state Department of Natural Resources was reporting the fire had grown to more than 30 acres and was burning an area near homes. Three helicopters and seven fire engines were on the scene and an air tanker was on the way.
As the evening wore on, the fire continued to grow quickly, swelling to more than 300 acres.
Tuesday evening, the state Fire Marshal’s Office reported the fire had grown to 350 acres, was threatening homes, crops and commercial structures and was growing.
The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray was activated to Level 2 to coordinate assistance for the fire.
Residents were evacuated along 183rd Avenue Southwest, Case Road Southwest and on either side of Interstate 5 in the area.
At that time, Puget Sound Energy reported 1,005 people were without power.
As of Wednesday morning, power was restored to nearly all of the more than 1,000 residents who lost it the previous evening.
The Level 3 evacuation was still in place Wednesday, but people were allowed to return to their properties if they could provide proof of residence.