People of Vantage can safely return home following fire evacuation; fire 50% contained

About 120 people have been evacuated from Vantage as a wildfire that started late Monday night threatens their homes. (WSDOT photo)

VANTAGE, Wash. -- Multiple fire crews are working to contain a wildfire that rapidly spread Tuesday in the Vantage area.

Firefighters responded to the Ryegrass Coulee Fire at the Ryegrass/Vantage area just before 11 p.m. Monday night after drivers reported a fire on the north side of Interstate 90 near milepost 133, approximately 3 miles west of Vantage. Winds at 45 miles per hour drove flames through dry grass and sagebrush in the direction of Vantage, according to a report.

Federal funds to assist in fighting the blaze, which has burned an estimated 1,000 acres, have been authorized as of 5:41 a.m., Tuesday. Mike O'Hare, FEMA Region 10 Administrator, determined this wildfire poses threats that would constitute a major disaster.

According to a news release, this is the first Fire Management Assistance Grant declaration for the 2018 Washington fire season.

Interstate 90 was previously shut down for hours Tuesday morning from Ellensburg to Vantage as flames impacted the area. Roads have since reopened, but Trooper Brian Moore cautions of substantial damage to guardrails and blowing smoke and ash limiting visibility at times.

The Sheriff's Office previously put out the Level 3 Evacuation notice, forcing all residents in the town of Vantage to leave their homes. The Red Cross had opened a shelter in Grant County at the George Community Hall for evacuees. At least 40 homes were evacuated.

The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office lowered the evacuation notice to Level 2 just after noon, Tuesday, which allows people to return to their homes. They're being advised to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice should fire conditions change.

Incident Management spokesperson Ben Shearer says one outbuilding has been damaged in this fire.

Firefighters said Tuesday they have stopped forward progression of flames and are now working to contain the fire, which they expect to be working on for a few more days.

As of Wednesday, the blaze is about 50 percent contained.

No one has been hurt in this fire.

The cause of this fire is under investigation. Ongoing updates regarding the Ryegrass Coulee Fire can be found at the Kittitas County Sheriff's Facebook page.

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