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Firefighters work to contain Newell Road Fire as it moves toward communities

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(The Center Square) – While first responders were starting to contain the Newell Road Fire, it was spreading north and threatening local communities, officials said in a meeting.

“Keep families together and do everything to keep them safe,” state Representative Gina Mosbrucker said at the meeting. “We take care of each other. This is what a small town looks like.”

Mosbrucker joined officials and the public for a community meeting in Goldendale Middle School at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Klickitat County Director of Emergency Management Jeff King said firefighters were strengthening the perimeter, but the fire was threatening communities to the north.

“It’s already moved past Dot Road and farther north toward Cleveland and Bickleton,” King said.

Residents in Bickleton, Cleveland and east to Alder Creek were under a “Level 3” or “go now” evacuation, while residents east of Alder Creek to the county line were under a “Level 2” or “get set” notice as of Tuesday, according to an update.

“If I warn you more time than you might need,” King said, “I’m okay with that.”

Officials changed the evacuation shelter from Goldendale Middle School to Grandview Middle School, located at 1401 W. 2nd St. in Grandview, at the time of the meeting. King said the fire’s direction made travel to the prior shelter dangerous.

The fire had reached nearly 60,000 acres with 20% containment since it started July 21, according to the update. It started at Newell Road near Rock Creek in Klickitat County and its cause is still under investigation. One firefighter was injured Tuesday morning when his vehicle rolled over, and he has been sent to a hospital for treatment.

“It’s just really hard with fast-moving grass fires,” said Kevin Stock, incident commander for Northwest Team 8. “It’s a long way around.”

First responders are containing the fire on its southeast corner and working on its northern edge, according to Rod Bonacker, an operations section chief. He said officials could soon expand containment to close to 50%.

Bonacker said resources including 12 hotshot crews and six local agency task forces are working to contain the fire. Firefighters are also using aircraft with infrared technology to detect the fire. A temporary flight restriction is in place.

Officials with groups including the American Red Cross, Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office, Klickitat County Search and Rescue, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and fire response teams answered the public’s questions toward the end of the meeting.

Several residents expressed frustration about officials’ communications during the fire.

“If you feel like you’re not getting the information you need, if you feel like you’re not seeing the coordination you need, then come to us,” Stock said. “Because that’s our job.”

Residents can find evacuation updates on Klickitat County 911 Dispatch’s Facebook page.

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