Wind whipped a fire in Kittitas County overnight, causing it to advance from 2,800 acres to nearly 24,000 acres in a matter of hours. The fire has now spread to more than 27,000 acres.
Flames from the Taylor Bridge Wildfire destroyed more than 60 homes by Tuesday morning. The fire is burning between Cle Elum and Thorp bordered by Highway 97 and Interstate 90.
Another 400 homes have been evacuated as winds shifted toward several pockets of homes and subdivisions.
There is no containment line around the fire yet.
Some of the houses and structures that have burned are located near Indian John Hill and north of Thorp near Highway 97.
Construction crews working on the Taylor Bridge Project caused the initial brush fire Monday, according to Rick Scriven of Eastside Fire and Rescue (click for picture of the bridge).
Originating near Taylor Road and SR 10, the fire flared up to about 150 acres by fternoon. At midnight the fire had grown to 16,000 acres and by 2:00 a.m. Tuesday it had surpassed 20,000 acres.
With the fire escalating, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to fight the fire. In addition, state firefighters and resources will provide aid to regional firefighters who have worked all night trying to stop the flames.
One firefighter said he had never seen a fire move so quickly. As a result of a rain in June followed by drier conditions in July, the east slopes of the Cascades are filled with combustible tinder allowing the fire to burn hot and quick.
Wind is expected to be a factor for firefighters over the next several days, however a chance of lightning may not be in the forecast until the weekend. A more detailed wildfire weather forecast can be found here.
Fire quickly burned through rugged timber late Monday, crowning in trees and glowing across ridge lines. KING 5 photographer Ken Jones drove through a neighborhood after midnight as trees burned around him.
Evacuations are in: Bettas Valley, Swauk Valley, Teanaway, and homes on the westside of SR97 between SR97 and Swauk, SunEast, Upper Reecer Creek, Green Canyon, areas northeast of Ellensburg (specifically homes with no green/defendable space around them).
An emergency shelter is at the Cle Elum Centennial Senior Center, 719 East Third Street, Cle Elum, 509-674-7530. An emergency animal shelter for farm animals has been set up at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds.
Evacuees endure long and frightening night
Hundreds of people awoke to firefighters at their door, ordering them out of their homes and out of the way of the oncoming fire.
"We were told around 2:30 this morning to get out as soon as possible. We grabbed our St. Bernard dog 'Big' and drove down to the roadblock," said Tammy Damore who lives in a subdivision along Sunlight Road in Cle Elum.
A number of people on Sunlight Road spent the night in their cars, parked at the roadblock.
Firefighters with Kittitas County Fire District 1 have been working the fire all night. Firefighter Brian Cavanaugh has had no break since the flames ignited Monday afternoon.
"We're all tired, but we want to go up and protect those homes," said Cavanuagh.
Tamie Goad came to check on her mother who lives in the subdivision. She learned her mother was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
"I'll be checking on her later, but I want to see if her house is okay," said Goad. "All we can do is wait and hope for the best, but it's going to be a long day."
The Kittitas Community Connect Facebook page has helped many evacuees stay in contact with one another.
KING 5's Lindsay Chamberlain, Jake Whittenberg, Roberta Romero contributed to this report.