A destructive, fast-spreading wildfire in Spokane County prompted authorities to close Interstate 90 and order the evacuation of the entire city of Medical Lake and nearby communities just a few hours before nightfall on Friday.
The Gray Fire is presently zero percent contained and getting more dangerous by the minute. Firefighters are scrambling to combat the blaze, including with helicopters that were busy during the afternoon and evening dumping water on the fire. However, gusty winds have made it difficult to fight.
The fire originated in Lakeland Village and has spread from there.
An estimated 3,000 acres have burned so far.
Level Three evacuation orders have been issued for:
- The entire city of Medical Lake
- The southern end of Clear Lake, including West Mallard Bay Road
- The entire town of Four Lakes and the area south along SR 904 and Murphy Road to Jensen Road
- South of SR 904, West of I‑90 and North of Medial Lake Four Lakes Road
- East of Silver Lake: Specifically, the area encompassed by Medical Lake-Four Lakes road to Lake Side Drive to Granite Lake Road, with the southern boundary of I‑90
- Residents West to Gray Rd, East to Silver Lake, South to Medical Lake Tyler Road, and North to the Medical Lake city limits
- Fancher Road
Structures have already been lost within the City of Medical Lake.
Not long after sundown, Nathan Hyun of KREM 2 News witnessed a structure burning to the ground and captured it on video.
Jonathan Fox of the National Weather Service created a timelapse video to show the progression of the smoke column as the fired burned this evening.
The Washington State Patrol has westbound Interstate 90 closed at the US 2 interchange in Spokane. No signed detour is available.
“Avoid I‑90/Medical Lake and SR 902 at this time due to the wildfire,” WSDOT says. Eastbound I‑90, meanwhile, is closed at the Tyler/SR 904 interchange. A detour is currently available via SR 904 through Cheney.
“My thoughts are with the Medical Lake, Washington, residents who have been ordered to evacuate as the Gray Fire grows,” tweeted Governor Jay Inslee.
“I’m also praying for the safety of the first responders working to contain the fire. May you all remain safe and out of harm’s way.”
“Our members report pushing residents’ wheelchairs a mile to safety after their first evacuation point was overtaken by the fire. Listen to local authorities,” tweeted AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE).
“We’ve got a long night ahead of us, but please keep yourselves safe, and we’ll focus on bringing these fast-moving fires under control,” tweeted Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.
The Washington National Guard has servicemembers deployed to evacuate patients and staff from Eastern State Hospital.
Nearby, two other fires were also burning.
One is the Oregon Road Fire, outside of Elk, which was originally estimated to be around one hundred acres, then revised upwards to 2,000 acres. “Aircraft are engaged with Level 3 evacuations in place,” DNR says.
In Whitman County, the Winona Fire is also burning out of control. It’s estimated to be at least 5,000 acres. The fire is mainly burning in grass and brush. It is believed to have begun around 2:30 PM in the afternoon.
“Cropland, range land, primary structure and secondary structures are threatened. Evacuations are in place,” DNR tweeted.
Shifting winds unfortunately have the potential to bring the Gray Fire to the City of Cheney, prompting the state, county, and local governments to begin preparing for Cheney’s evacuation, if necessary.
Winds are supposed to ease overnight, which will help firefighting crews as they struggle to attack the Gray Fire and prevent it from consuming more buildings.
Smoke is expected to almost completely envelop the Pacific Northwest by the end of the weekend, according to the NWS’ latest smoke projection. Get ready!