State firefighters battling 7,000-acre wildfire in northwest Whitman County; now 80% contained

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Aug. 20—State firefighters with airplanes and engines battled a 7,000-acre fire that sparked Thursday afternoon in northwest Whitman County and was 80% contained by Friday night.

There were no evacuations in place Friday night for the Wagner Road Fire burning south of state Route 23 and west of the unincorporated town of Ewan, said Guy Gifford, community resiliency assistant division manager for the Washington Department of Natural Resources. An estimate of the fire's size had grown from 4,000 acres Thursday evening to 7,381 acres Friday night, which Gifford said was because of a more accurate map of the fire.

The fire was reported just after 2 p.m. Thursday and is burning in a mixture of field crops, grasses and trees, Gifford said. The blaze grew rapidly due to high grasses, sloping fields and weather conditions, he said.

Temperatures climbed into the mid-90s on the Palouse on Friday, but Gifford said the fire wasn't receiving direct sunlight Friday morning.

A crew of more than 100 people was fighting the fire Friday morning, Gifford said. State resources were mobilized to fight the fire at the request of Whitman County officials late Thursday.

No roads were closed as of Friday night. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Smoke from the fire was blowing into Ritzville, causing localized dips in air quality, according to the state's Department of Ecology. The air quality index there, and in Spokane, had reached the "moderate" level as of Friday afternoon, indicating potential health concerns for those unusually sensitive to air pollution.

S-R reporter Garrett Cabeza contributed to this story.