USA — A wildfire roared through Asotin County Monday afternoon, destroying structures, vehicles and injuring two firefighters.
The blaze was reported around 1:00 Monday afternoon. Crews responded to this hillside just west of 17th Street near the old Bennett Lumber Mill.
Strong winds made it difficult for firefighters to contain the blaze and it quickly took a turn southward up the hill.
“When the wind started picking it up it started to get really big,” said witness Ryan Carman. “It started to come toward the apartments a lot more. It almost took out a couple horses and caught a shop on fire, a couple of cars. It just got really intense really quick.”
Crews from all over the area were called in to help Asotin County firefighters battle the blaze, including firefighters from Lewiston, Clarkston, Asotin, Clearwater Paper, Moscow, Whitman County and Garfield County.
A helicopter was also deployed for water drops.
Homes were threatened by the flames and a local shop was fully engulfed. Winds also blew smoke throughout the Valley, making breathing difficult for many residents. Locals gathered to watch the fire from a safe distance.
“Really shocked, but it’s kind of fun flames,” said fire watcher Brittany Dick. “My mom and grandma have been around fires so they were like, ‘Fire, ok, lets go watch it!’
In the 1600 block of Libby the dangerous fire was also burning out of control. A structure of some sort was going up in flames behind a home and firefighters were doing their best to get to it and protect the house.
“It’s a garage, It’s a garage I think,” said one witness.
A helicopter showed up and began dropping water on the structure, as more firefighters arrived.
Moving north a couple blocks off of Chestnut, residents were out in force watching the fire burning down in a grassy bowl. Officials were doing their best to control the crowd to allow firefighters access to the fire.
The fire eventually burned up the hillside, then threatened to cross a side street. One flareup caught two firefighters by surprise, as they scrambled to safety.
Witnesses said they had never seen any fire this bad.
“I think it’s horrible,” said a witness. “For one, it like messes up your eyes.”
Residents in the neighborhood were obviously concerned about what was going to happen next.
“Not around town I haven’t,” said nearby homeowner Jeff Kulczyk, when asked if he had ever seen a fire like Monday’s. “I’ve seen wildfires that look like this. That heat and that wind’s just fueling it. I just left work to make sure my house wasn’t on fire, because I couldn’t get ahold of my kids. Now I got to get back to work.”
By late afternoon, crews were mopping up the big fire.
The two Asotin County firefighters transported to Tri State Memorial Hospital were both suffering from smoke inhalation. One also suffered burns and the other was suffering from heat exhaustion symptoms. Fire Chief Noel Hardin one of them had been released as of Monday night.
Hardin said at least four outbuildings, multiple vehicles and a shop were destroyed. Multiple homes were threatened.