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Wildfire, Smoke, Exhaustion Draws Cle Elum Community Close

Anna King


CLE ELUM, Wash. – Cle Elum, Washington is the type of town where people smile and nod in the supermarket parking lot –- even if you’re a stranger. This week the close-knit mountain community has been battling a more than 22-thousand-acre wildfire. The blaze has displaced many residents.

The blaze has had firefighters evacuating people and pets –- sometimes just in time. At least 60 structures, including homes and cabins, have been burned down. Many stock animals have been evacuated to the nearby Ellensburg Rodeo Grounds.

At a community meeting, hundreds of hot, tired and stressed out residents sat in bleachers. They wanted to hear more about the wildfire edging their town. The mere mention of volunteer firefighters drew applause.

Outside, I caught up with Susan Colts. She says her church congregation and neighbors are trying to help those who have been displaced or lost their homes.

“I think it’s been very fatiguing on those people that are in that situation -– they just don’t know where to turn and what to do and sleep is hard in coming.”

In downtown Cle Elum, Tyler Oversby stood outside his small white house barefoot watching plumes of smoke billow closer to town.

“It’s just horrifying actually," he says. "Because this it getting huge and it looks like it and it looks like a volcano erupted around us. I don’t know it’s very scary.”

Fire fighting officials are hoping for containment of the blaze in five to seven days. They say right now it’s still a very difficult and dangerous fire in rough terrain.

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