DAYTON, Wash. – Firefighters battled large wildfires Friday in eastern Washington that burned a railroad trestle and grain elevator, and a rural mayor was arrested after trying to get through a barricade to protect his farm.
Cooler weather and light winds persisted Friday, but hotter, drier conditions were predicted into next week. State officials ordered reinforcements, including a DC-10 jetliner capable of dropping as much as eight times more retardant than the usual air tanker.
A fire apparently started by a wheat combine blackened about 6 square miles in the Palouse River canyon near Colfax, destroying a trestle and a grain elevator, officials said.
The blaze was about 60 percent contained, Colfax Fire Chief Ralph Walter said late Thursday.
"As long as the wind doesn't get too crazy, we're going to win this one," Walter said. "You never know when it could blow up on you."
About three dozen miles to the southwest, firefighters from other states joined the battle against fires covering more than 100 square miles near Dayton.
Two homes have been destroyed and hundreds of other structures remain threatened, and more than 300 people have been evacuated, authorities said.
Starbuck Mayor Don Jackson, 67, was cited for obstruction of law enforcement officers and released after trying to get through barricades to protect his home, authorities said Thursday.
When deputies refused to let him pass a roadblock Tuesday, the mayor said the only way they could stop him would be to arrest him, so they did, sheriff's Capt. Mark Franklin said.
Jackson's wife, Judy, said he continued trying to get to his property all day Wednesday and Thursday.
"Somehow this needs to change," Judy Jackson said. "He's a retired volunteer firefighter of 40 years, and he wanted to help other farmers, too."
Citing people under such circumstances is unusual, Washington State Patrol Lt. Steven G. Turcott said.
State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland arranged for the DC-10, owned by a private contractor, to drop retardant on large fires. It can drop a line of retardant 50 feet wide and more than a mile long, he said.
The DC-10 will be based in Moses Lake, between the southeast Washington fires and the largest burn, a 200-square-mile complex of fires in north-central Washington.
Nearly 3,000 firefighters were assigned to a 200-square-mile complex of fires in north-central Washington that were 45 percent contained.
In Oregon, two ranchers were charged with setting blazes within existing fire areas. Dwight Hammond, 63, and his son Steve Hammond, 37, were arrested Thursday and charged with felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor reckless burning and reckless endangerment.
Harney County Sheriff David Glerup said he couldn't provide information about their motives. The existing fires were burning on more than 150 square miles in sparsely populated eastern Oregon.
Susan Hammond said Friday that the charges against her husband and son are false but that the government has been difficult to work with.