Saturday’s rain was good news for the crews working the Schneider Springs Fire, who see it as a possible turning point.
“We finally made it to the day we have all been waiting for eagerly all through the summer,” said Rick Hluchan, an incident meteorologist trainee with the incident management team working the fire. His comments came during an online public meeting Friday night. “It’s a good, wetting rain — something this area has not seen for a long time.”
The lightning-sparked fire has burned 104,800 acres since Aug. 4 — an area six times the size of Yakima, according to a report from the Schneider Springs Fire command team. It is at 31% containment and firefighters are hoping cooler, wetter weather this weekend will slow the fire further.
Hluchan said a half-inch of rain was expected to fall on the west side of the fire, which is about 18 miles northwest of Naches, and a quarter-inch on the east side.
Forrest Ownbey, a fire behavior analyst, said the moisture will take away much of the fire’s fuel, but it’s likely not going to be officially over until Thanksgiving.
“There are still stump holes, logs that are going to continue to burn until they are fully consumed,” Ownbey said. “It’s going to be out when the snow flies.”
Fire crews were expected to continue patrols and assess structure protection as needed in the Goose Prairie, Bumping Lake and Cliffdell areas. Crews were also going to take advantage of the weather and reinforce containment lines northwest of Cliffdell, as well as monitor fire activity in the wilderness area.
Level 2 evacuation notices remain in effect for the Bumping River Road corridor and State Route 410 from Salmon Cove to Pinecliff. Residents in those areas must be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
Residents in the SR 410 corridor from Pinecliff to the junction with U.S. Highway 12, as well as those in the area long U.S. 12 from the SR 410 junction to Tieton Reservoir Road, are under a Level 1 notice, which means they should be preparing to evacuate if necessary.
Tony Miller, Yakima Valley Emergency Management director, said his office will reevaluate the orders after the weather system moves through. Miller said no structures have been lost to the fire.