Firefighters get lucky. High winds didn’t arrive to fan Connell wildfire

Fire crews are mopping up the remains of a 8,700-acre wind-driven blaze that scorched grass and sagebrush between Mesa and Connell.

The Manton Way Fire is at 80 percent containment, but hasn’t grown since Tuesday evening, said Franklin County Fire District 1 Chief Eric Mauseth. Three teams spent Wednesday hunting down hot spots to put out.

“We’re hoping to tie it up by tomorrow afternoon,” Mauseth said Wednesday.

The high winds predicted for Wednesday afternoon did not come, the chief said, letting firefighters continue to get ahead of the fire.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, but it began around 1 p.m. Monday near the intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 17. It was pushed by 30- mph gusts spreading pushing it to Connell.

Blowing smoke forced the southbound lanes of Highway 395 to close for several hours Monday evening.

Fire districts from across Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties helped battle the blaze, they were joined by state and federal firefighters. Help from outside of the area continued on Wednesday.

The community continued to offer help with water and food.

“We had great support from all our neighboring districts,” Mauseth said. “The town also has stepped up in full force to offer all the support they can.”

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.