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Washing Wildfire Increasingly Contained, Officials Report

09/12/11 04:52 PM ET   AP

GOLDENDALE, Wash. — Firefighters gained better control of a wildfire that has destroyed more than 100 structures near Satus Pass, but health authorities warned residents in Eastern Washington about poor air quality Monday as a result of the fire.

The wildfire burning about 10 miles north of Goldendale was 50 percent contained, despite hot, dry weather in the region. The fire has burned about 6 square miles, or more than 4,200 acres.

A lack of wind has aided firefighters, but those light winds also mean smoke tends to hang over the region.

Air quality was rated unhealthy for everyone Monday in both Goldendale and Toppenish, a city north of the wildfire on the Yakima Indian Reservation, according to the Washington state Department of Ecology. The agency warned residents in those areas to limit their outdoor activities.

Residents who could be particularly sensitive to poor air quality – even those who live as far north as Ellensburg, Wenatchee and the Okanogan Valley – also were advised to limit outdoor activities given the residual smoke. They include people suffering from lung or heart disease, diabetes, a respiratory infection, those who have had a stroke, infants and people over age 65.

High temperatures in the 90s and low humidity were forecast for Monday, but winds were expected to pick up in the area of the fire.

More than 100 structures have burned in the fire, which started Wednesday along U.S. Highway 97. They include 18 homes, five cabins, 56 outbuildings and one bridge. Fire investigators were still researching whether another six homes were primary residences and another 22 structures that had burned, according to fire incident spokesman Dale Warriner.

There were 1,016 firefighters and support personnel assigned to the fire Monday. Fire managers were expected to begin reassigning some of those people to other wildfires beginning Wednesday.

In a statement, Warriner said the number of people assigned to the fire makes the fire base camp the third largest settlement in Klickitat County behind Goldendale and White Salmon, according to 2010 Census data.

West of the Cascades, helicopters continued to dump water on a wildfire burning in the Brothers Wilderness Area on the Olympic Peninsula. Cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels were expected to help firefighters there.

About 80 firefighters are assigned to the blaze, which has burned 1,230 acres. No structures were threatened.

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Filed by James Gerken  |