Some residents forced to flee the Taylor Bridge Fire were allowed to return home on Thursday, but the fire raged on, leaving much of Kittitas County on edge.

Fueled by hotter temperatures and shifting winds, new flames advanced north toward Bettas Road. Firefighters managed to hold the line at Sauk Creek to protect Hidden Valley. In addition to the 900 firefighters battling the blaze, inmate work crews were called to clear brush and trees to create a new fire line.

The blaze has burned across an estimated 22,787 acres, roughly 35 square miles, of diverse terrain, ranging from dry grasses to sagebrush and thick timber. The fire started Monday at a bridge construction site. Officials have said at least 70 homes have burned.

A trio of helicopters blasted cool water over the hot flames, mostly over the northern border of the fire where ground crews could not easily access terrain. Approximately 33 percent of the fire has been contained.

Some residents who had been forced to flee were allowed to return to their homes.

Dawn Vasquez wasn't one of them. She hasn't been to her home in two days; access has been blocked for safety. But she knows enough.

"We lost all of our structures around the house. It's within four inches of our house it (the fire) burnt," she said. "It's going to be a difficult path ahead of us."

In Ellensburg, Ed Tassevigen tried to keep his humor. His truck was hit with fire retardant.

"There are a lot of people out there that owe their houses to this nasty, sticky crud.," he said.

Only Tassevigen's own house wasn't one of them. His home is gone, and he can't even get to the rubble. He and his family has been staying inside their Buick.

"The seats recline nicely, but it's not exactly like a La-Z-Boy."

Tassevigen has a dozen more worries. Half of his 35 sled dogs are huddled inside the Ellensburg Animal Hospital, safe and sound for now.

Despite the lowered evacuation level, Laurie Plut said she doesn't feel out of danger yet. The fire has been right at the timber line for two days, just beyond the wood cabin she and her husband have been building over the past 12 years in a collection of 40 lots, all but five of them vacation cabins.

"We're still worried. It's extremely frustrating, but the firefighters have been working hard," she said by telephone. "And we have to love them."


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