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18 homes destroyed in fire on Wash. Indian reservation; 2 firefighters hurt

A fire fueled by dry grass and high winds raged through White Swan, Wash., on Saturday, destroying homes. A fire fueled by dry grass and high winds raged through White Swan, Wash., on Saturday, destroying homes. (Sara Gettys/The Yakima Herald-Republic via Associated Press)
By Associated Press
February 14, 2011

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WHITE SWAN, Wash. — A wildfire that destroyed 18 houses on the Yakima Indian Reservation has been brought under control, officials said yesterday.

Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze, which was fueled by 40 mile-per-hour winds. The fire apparently started in one house early Saturday afternoon and then spread in the town of White Swan. The fire raged for most of the day.

Early yesterday, Yakima County District 5 Fire Chief Brian Vogel said the brush fires had been controlled, but thousands of logs at one of the mills were still burning.

No residents were hurt but two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, said Sergeant George Town of the county sheriff’s office.

Some residents fled voluntarily and took shelter at the town’s ceremonial long house and high school.

Rural roads leading to the town were blocked off due to the danger posed by the fire, the Yakima County sheriff’s dispatch office said.

Town said about 70 firefighters fought the blaze, which was driven by high winds that were expected to keep up through the night.

“We were hoping for relief from Mother Nature but it doesn’t look like it right now,’’ said Town, the department’s search and rescue coordinator.

The fires spread to trees and power lines, knocking out electricity. “There are a lot of spot fires. We have a hazardous, dangerous situation here,’’ Harry Smiskin, chairman of the Yakima Council, told the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Crews remained on the scene overnight.

One of the homes destroyed was owned by Rodney Martin. “I got out front and tried to water the front of the house, and it overtook me,’’ the 45-year-old Martin said.

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