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Newell Road Fire threatens gas pipeline, burns more than 50,000 acres

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(The Center Square) – The Newell Road Fire in the Columbia River Gorge has burned more than 50,000 acres in just a few days, threatening a natural gas pipeline in the area, among other structures.

“We had a significant growth of fire,” said Rich Elliott, an operation section chief for the Southeast Washington Type 3 Interagency Team, on Facebook Sunday. “We’re trying to pinch that off.”

The fire has grown to nearly 51,700 acres with 0% containment since it started close to 3 p.m. on July 21, according to an Inciweb update. It threatens structures, including the Williams Northwest Pipeline, which runs from Washington to Colorado and can channel 3.8 million dekatherms in natural gas per day.

On Monday, officials escalated to a Type 2 incident management team typically used on smaller scale national or state incidents, according to Inciweb, and more than 300 personnel have been working to contain the fire.

Aircraft have been helping firefighting efforts, according to a Monday morning Klickitat County news release.

The fire’s cause is still under investigation, but according to Elliott, it started at Newell Road near Rock Creek in Klickitat County.

“The fire quickly became a hazard to residents, homes, farm structures, livestock, crops, solar farms, wind farms, the Williams natural gas pipeline and the Roosevelt Landfill,” the update reads.

Wind drove the fire east after it started Friday, burning through farms, homes, wheat fields, pastures, wind turbines and a solar farm, Elliott said.

First responders have been trying to contain the fire, but it grew more Saturday, reaching more than 20,000 acres at that point, according to an earlier Klickitat County news release.

The fire spread northwest into creek systems on Sunday, according to a Facebook post featuring Dave Robertson, who works in operations for Northwest Incident Management Team 8. Firefighters have since been working to stop this spread and solidify the fire’s perimeter in all other directions.

“We’re in a pretty good place to be able to continue catching this fire,” Robertson said.

The area has seen hot, dry and windy weather, and is currently under a red flag warning, according to Inciweb. The fire may be contained by July 29.

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at Goldendale Middle School, located at 520 E. Collins St. in Goldendale, according to the Klickitat County news release.

Officials closed roads including Roosevelt Grade Road, Middle Road and Old Highway 8 north to, and including, Dot Road. There is also a temporary flight restriction above the fire.

The National Interagency Coordination Center predicts almost the entire state of Washington will see an above-normal fire risk from July to September, and officials have been telling residents to prepare for that reality.

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, announced a community town hall meeting is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Goldendale Middle School to update local residents on the fire.

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