Officials: Washington Wildfire Destroying 13 Homes Was Human-Caused

The Spokane Valley wildfire that destroyed 13 homes say it began when a small recreational fire rekindled in high winds, allowing embers to escape, officials said Saturday.

The person believed to be responsible had been identified, but the identity was being withheld pending completion of the investigation, fire supervisors said in a news release. Once the investigation is completed, the state Department of Natural Resources will determine an appropriate course of action, the release said.

The fire was not a campfire, but more like a backyard fire in a residential zone, fire spokesman Dale Warriner said.

The fire rekindled when winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour blew in Thursday evening, and the fire grew explosively after that until winds subsided Friday.

About 200 people remained evacuated from their homes Saturday. The fire, at 1,006 acres, was 60 percent contained, with full containment expected Tuesday, Warriner said. Although the weather was in the upper 90s, winds were light on Saturday.

No injuries were reported.

"We remain at high fire danger," said Loren Torgerson, Northeast Region Manager for DNR. "Campfires are only allowed in approved campgrounds. All other burning in a forest environment is closed."

Warriner said the Valley View fire was going to be an expensive one since some of the homes were worth more than $1 million.

"There are some pretty high-end homes there," he said. "I'm sure some of them are worth that, yeah."

Gov. Chris Gregoire and State Patrol Chief John Batiste flew over fires burning in Spokane, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry and Stevens counties on Friday night.

"Safety remains our highest priority," Gregoire said in a news release. "No one has been injured and we want to ensure it stays that way."

On Friday, Gregoire declared a state of emergency for the entire state, freeing equipment, firefighters and funding to fight the blazes.

There were at least six other fires burning in Eastern Washington on Saturday.

They were:

— The Badger complex fire north of Wenatchee, two fires burning 13,000 acres in primarily grass, wheat and sagebrush. Paul Norman, information officer for the Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, Ore., said the fire — the Browns Canyon fire and the Badger Mountain fire — was threatening 60 homes on Saturday. Norman said an evacuation order had been issued for the residents of the homes. Norman said the two fires had burned a total of 13,000 acres. The 4,200-acre Browns Canyon fire was 70 percent contained and the 8,800-acre Badger Mountain fire was 50 percent contained on Saturday, Norman said.

— The Cayuse fire 14 miles east of Okanogan that had burned 1,500 acres in timber, grass and sagebrush. There were 287 firefighters, aided by four helicopters, battling the blaze on Saturday, Norman said.

— Three fires — the French Valley, the Abaham Canyon and the Doyle Complex blazes — that had burned 900 acres along the Kettle River on Saturday. They were 15 percent contained and it was being fought by 292 firefighters, Norman said.