Investigators determine cause of fire in Washington that burned 61 homes

air tanker drops on Taylor Bridge fire
Tanker 489, a Lockheed L-188A Electra, drops on the Taylor Bridge fire August 14 at the Sunlight Waters housing development, as the fire advances on the community near Cle Elum, Washington. Photo by, and used with permission from, Joshua Trujillo / SeattlePI

Fire investigators from the Washington state Department of Natural Resources have determined that the Taylor Bridge fire was caused by a construction crew working on a bridge on Highway 10. The fire destroyed 61 homes and blackened about 23,000 acres southeast of Cle Elum. It started on August 13 about 30 feet from where one worker was cutting rebar with a STIHL power saw on the bridge deck and where a second worker was welding under the bridge.

The contractors were working on a state Transportation Department project during a period when industrial activity was supposed to be shut down because of high fire danger.

During the construction work a water truck was on site but the operator was away on an errand and no one else on site knew how to run it. Some workers connected a garden hose to the truck but the “trickle of water”, according to the report, was not effective in stopping the fire. Fire extinguishers on the project were scarce so employees used shovels to fight the fire, at least until it went over the hill.

The investigation found that there had been two other unreported fires on the project earlier that had been put out by employees.

The two companies working on the project were Conway Construction of Ridgefield and a subcontractor, Rainier Steel of Auburn.

The DNR is consulting with the Attorney General’s office about their options to recover a portion of the $11 million spent fighting the fire.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Investigators determine cause of fire in Washington that burned 61 homes”

  1. Ah isn’t a P-3 a Chopped and channeled Electra?
    Our P-3’s moldering away in California…
    Jes’ sayin’…


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