I-90 closed due to Gray Fire
WSDOT and State Patrol personnel closed Interstate 90 due to the Gray Fire (Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation)

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.

A KXLY reporter vis­it­ed a neigh­bor­hood that has been burned to the ground.

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.

Erik Smith cap­tured video of homes on fire at Gran­ite Lake.

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. 

Highway closures in the Spokane area
High­way clo­sures in the Spokane area (Graph­ic: Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Transportation)

“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.

Satel­lite imagery shows the fire has been expand­ing extreme­ly rapid­ly.

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!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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