NEAH BAY — Residents of Neah Bay were allowed to return to their homes on Friday after more than 100 had been evacuated from several neighborhoods in the face of several fires that broke out Thursday.
“The threat to life and property has passed for now,” said Makah Tribal Chairman T.J. Greene on Friday.
Neah Bay schools and tribal government operations remained closed Friday, but fires had been beaten back as high winds — which blew steadily at about 30 mph with gusts above 50 mph — died down overnight, he said.
“It’s really fortunate that there was no loss of life, no injuries and no property damage,” Greene said.
Fires had burned at least 140 acres, he said.
The Cape Fire was made up of two blazes, Greene said late Friday — the Alpha Fire, fully contained at 18.18 acres and the Bravo Fire, 70 percent contained at 60 acres, according to the day’s most recent update by the from state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crew members, who have been battling the blazes with crews on the ground and helicopters performing water drops.
DNR said crews had made “significant progress” toward 80 percent containment of the Cape blazes, the largest of those that broke out Thursday morning, by the end of Friday, Greene said.
The Hobuck Lake Fire, the first one discovered in the early morning hours on Thursday, burned hot and fast and raced toward a residential area. People were alerted to it because it was dropping hot embers on homes.
That fire, referred to as Charley Fire by DNR, Greene said, was “very concerning at 3:30 a.m. or so” Thursday, but it was blocked by wetlands and considered to be 90 percent contained at 37. 8 acres late Friday afternoon,
A third fire, Johnny’s Junction, did not grow beyond 2 acres and was fully contained Friday, having run out of fuel, the tribal chairman said.
Firefighting is expected to continue for another two or three days, he said, although it could go more quickly depending upon the weather.
Smoke is not a problem because of northeasterly winds blowing it out to sea.
“There has been no determination about the cause” of the fires, Greene said.
“All we know is that there were controlled burns” set by DNR “in those areas within the last couple of weeks,” he added.
There were some close calls.
A private landowner on Cape Flattery had flames literally at the doorstep of his workshop, Greene said, but he worked with DNR to get a fire line in and divert it.
DNR has been the lead agency fighting the fires. Assistance has been provided by the Olympic Correction Center south of Forks both Thursday and today, he said.
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