Wildfire hits central county
Nearly 200 structures evacuated, none lost
July 6, 2023
A brush fire about 4 miles northeast of Shelton forced the mandatory evacuation of 200 structures, including homes and businesses, July 4.
The mandatory order was downgraded to voluntary at noon Wednesday.
The fire, driven by wind, began about 2 p.m., just west of the Rainbow Lake community near the intersection of East McEwan Prairie Road and East Mason Lake Road.
According to a news release from Central Mason Fire & EMS, the fire is burning on industrial timberland and private land that's on flat and accessible terrain.
"The crews did an outstanding job of protecting life and structures," Central Mason Fire Chief Jeff Snyder wrote in an email to the Journal on Wednesday morning. "With the help of numerous in-county and out-of-county fire resources, along with the assistance of Green Diamond, Department of Natural Resources, Mason County Sheriff's Office, Washington State Patrol, Department of Emergency Management and MACECOM, we were able to get a control line around the fire late in the evening of the Fourth of July."
Snyder requested state firefighting assistance late Tuesday afternoon, which was quickly granted. About 10 aircraft, including air tankers, water planes and helicopters, joined the fight in the early evening, drawing water from Island Lake and Oakland Bay. About 100 personnel battled the blaze Tuesday.
An update to the Journal from Central Mason at 8 a.m. Wednesday said the fire had burned 257 acres and that none of the 200 evacuated structures had been lost.
The Sheriff's Office issued a Level 3 wildfire evacuation order - the highest level which means "go, leave immediately - late in the afternoon for most of the John's Prairie industrial area and the immediately surrounding neighborhoods. Johns Prairie Road was closed at both state Route 3 and East Batstone Cutoff Road. East Mason Lake Road near Mikkelson Road leading into the area was also closed.
The American Red Cross opened a wildfire evacuation shelter at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Olympic Middle School in Shelton. At 8 a.m. Wednesday, 12 adults, five dogs and two cats were sheltered at the school. They received cots, food and other supplies.
"Mason County did a really bang-up job on this with emergency management," said Gregg Dahmen, the shelter supervisor for the South Puget Sound and Olympics chapter of the American Red Cross.
He added, "I've been up for 24 hours, minus a catnap or two, but I just go with the flow."
Shelton Family YMCA also remained open overnight to assist evacuees and Ridge Motorsports Park opened for dry camping and RVs.
Temperatures climbed into the upper 80s Tuesday, which combined with a relative humidity level in the low 20s to create dangerous fire conditions. Those conditions extended into Wednesday while crews were continuing to battle the blaze.
About 9 a.m. Wednesday, incident command for the fire was transferred to the Western Washington Type 3 Incident Management Team.
As of the Journal's press time, crews had a hand and bulldozer control line around the fire, according to Snyder.
At noon Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office posted on social media that it was moving to a level 2 evacuation, allowing people to return to their homes.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, according to authorities.
■ Journal reporter Gordon Weeks contributed to this story from Olympic Middle School.