PRAIRIE CITY — Prairie City residents began pouring out of town early Saturday morning after Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer issued an evacuation order.
A steady stream of vehicles was heading west, as rain mixed with ash fell on the city. Severe winds pushed the fire toward Prairie
As residents left the city, a bevy of resources, including local firefighters, headed east, into Prairie City, to combat the blaze.
“There’s quite a few people moving into that area,” said Vince Mazzier, a fire public information officer for the Office of Wildland Fire in the Department of the Interior. “The fire came off the hill last night, and in some spots it’s already down into the flats in some of the grassy areas” around the city.
Mazzier said fire officials are mobilizing a sizable contingent of firefighters and equipment to the area.
“There’s quite a few people moving into that area,” he said. “Any of the available resources we have on the fire are being pulled away from the job they were doing in other parts of the fire that we feel secure about, and (we’re) moving them toward Prairie City.”
A “leave immediately” evacuation order was issued for homes on the south side of Prairie City, south of the river. Evacuatio 3 notices also were given to homes south of County Road 62, also known as Summit Prairie Road, as well as Upper Strawberry.
Residents north of County Road 62, including the town of Prairie City and as far east as Dixie, were put on a Level 2 evacuation notice, which means they should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at the Mount Vernon Grange Hall.
High winds — gusts reached 49 mph — changed the nature of the fire, Mazzier said. The strong winds lowered the relative humidity “so it picked up fire activity really quickly,” he said.
Fire officials prepared for the strong winds by shifting additional resources to where they were expected to be needed, Mazzier said.
“It’s a real heads-up day for firefighters,” he said. “People are very alert to what’s going on.”
Mazzier said the rain that started falling Saturday morning isn’t expected to be strong enough to change the fire activity.
He urged anyone evacuating to remain calm and be alert for equipment that is moving toward the fire.
He said fire officials are doing everything they can to try to protect the area, with their highest priority being on protecting lives.