UPDATE: 52 homes saved in south Kennewick; train starts Finley fire

June 11, 2013 

A large smoke cloud spread across south Kennewick on Tuesday, as a brush fire scorched about 1,000 acres and forced residents to evacuate their homes.

Firefighters managed to save about 52 homes and the only damage reported was to fences and a porch, said Jeremy Beck of Benton County Emergency Services. Officials do not know what started the fire.

As fire crews worked to control the brush fire and the smoke began to clear, another set of fires broke out along the railroad tracks in Finley and burned earth-moving equipment near the Tessenderlo Kerley fertilizer plant.

Firefighters believe a BNSF Railway train sparked the fires, Beck said.

Troy Silva of Finley snapped pictures of the flames from his home. "Fire crews were telling the neighbors they had to leave. Everybody was in awe," he said.

No one was injured and residents around the fertilizer plant were allowed to stay in their homes as fire crews fought the scattered fires.

There were 38 engines and more than 100 firefighters from agencies in the Tri-Cities, as well as Yakima and Walla Walla at the south Kennewick fire, Beck said. Some of them then moved east to fight the string of fires in Finley.

"There was a lot of resources out there at the fires," said Beck. "We are pretty tapped."

Swirling winds with gusts up to 30 mph made the south Kennewick fire hard to contain.

Residents in the Five Points and Hansen Park area were evacuated as the fire burned. They were allowed to return to their homes Tuesday night.

No one was injured in the fire, which started near the Tripple Vista area near Badger Canyon, he said.

The Benton-Franklin chapter of the American Red Cross opened a shelter at Highlands Middle School for people displaced by the first blaze. And the Benton County Fairgrounds opened to receive large animals affected by the fires.

The smoke forced the closure of parts of Clodfelter Road. The state closed the interstate eastbound near Badger Road to the interchange.

As of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday night, the south Kennewick fire was not out and fire crews planned to work through the night to make sure it stayed under control.

Crews also planned to work through the night to control the Finley fires, Beck said.

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