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Watermelon Hill fire 80-percent contained

Watermelon Hill fire 80-percent contained

The Watermelon Hill fire is now at 80-percent containment, the last Level 3 evacuation was lifted Monday afternoon, and now as firefighters continue to tame the fire, residents are starting to clean up in the fire's wake.

Fishtrap Lake Resort just off Interstate 90 is normally busy right now. Instead, boats are docked and campers are empty. Despite the quiet moment, it's anything but as the resort owners are left to clean up the mess from the fire.

Sandaa MacKinnon and her husband were at the resort and were alerted by the resort owners on Saturday night that a fire was near. In a matter of an hour they found themselves packing up the family and heading out.

"We had to leave our cat down here because we had to leave so quick," MacKinnon said.

On Tuesday the MacKinnons were back at the campground cleaning up from the fire, almost everything at the resort has seen some sort of impact. The MacKinnons are dealing with a lot of fire retardant, which covered nearly everything.

"It was, well it's on everything. The shed still has some on it," MacKinnon said.

Deputies: Watermelon Hill fire started by recreational shooters

Deputies: Watermelon Hill fire started by recreational shooters

Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies are looking for a group of men who accidentally started the Watermelon Hill fire while target shooting at a location between Fishtrap Lake and Sprague Saturday afternoon.

For a long time the aluminum can has served as a favorite target for people doing a little plinking; they're cheap and easy to carry out when your done shooting. More recently exploding targets have started showing up on store shelves and have now started at least two fires in the Fishtrap area.

It's legal to buy exploding targets because until the active ingredients are mixed together products like "Sure Shot" are inert. Even then it takes a high powered rifle to set the charge off.

Unfortunately someone was using tannerite at a makeshift range Saturday and started the Watermelon Hill fire, which threatened Lori Brown's son's home.

"We got here as quickly as we could. when we got here there were vehicles that were leaving the area people leaving the area and he stopped a vehicle and the man did admit to being there and starting the fire," Brown said.

Stolen gun recovered, returned after 32 years

Stolen gun recovered, returned after 32 years

A gun stolen 32 years ago on the other side of the state has finally been returned to it's owner after popping up on Craigslist.

On July 15, a Stevens County Reserve Deputy found the gun posted for sale in Medical Lake and was interested in buying it. However after he ran the serial number, he found the Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver had been stolen in Tacoma back in 1982.

Detective Dave Knechtel contacted the Tacoma Police Department and confirmed the revolver had been stolen during a burglary in 1982. He also contacted the Craigslist seller who says he purchased the revolver near Tacoma about six months ago and had no idea it was stolen.

Detective Knechtel was able to track down the original owner of the revolver who was extremely surprised it had been found and happy it was not used in a crime. The weapon has since been returned to him.

Local Pony league baseball champs head to California

Local Pony league baseball champs head to California

A plucky group of 10-year-old boys are preparing to hop on a plane and head down to California to represent Washington as the regional Pony League Baseball champions!

All 11 kids have been involved with Spokane Indians Youth Baseball who united the Pony, Baby Ruth and Spokane Youth Sports Association leagues under one umbrella. After the regular season was over, try-outs were held for the all-star team and just a few weeks later the hard hitters swept the Mustang Northwest Regional Championship, winning all 11 games.

Since then, they've been working hard at Albertsons grocery stores around Spokane, asking for donations to help them make the trip to Anaheim.

“The money will help pay for their hotel room,” said Stephanie Erickson, the mother of one of the players. “The Pony organization books flights, which the parents pay half of, and this will help cover expenses like hotel rooms, food and other incidentals. We have a couple of families driving down with equipment to save on expenses like checking bat bags.”

Cooler temps help fire crews

You might think the rain that fell across the Inland Northwest Tuesday morning would make quick work of fires raging throughout the state, however while the moisture is a relief, there's still plenty of work to do.

Out at the Watermelon Hill fire camp in Cheney, crews woke up Tuesday morning and many of them began rolling up their tents on what will most likely be their last day at the fire. For those that remain behind there's still a lot of work left to make sure the fire is extinguished.

?It slows it down for a day but that's about it,? Deputy Incident Commander Bruce Holloway said.

Holloway, who is also the fire chief for Spokane County Fire District Three, said he's seen fire seasons like this before and knows that a little rain doesn't always mean a whole lot.

?The fuels are really cooked dry so it takes almost like a week of rain to really make a difference. A day of rain with heat again tomorrow, doesn't really change much,? he said.

In fact sometimes, depending on where crews are in the firefighting effort, the moisture can hinder their work.

Watermelon Hill fire 60 percent contained

The Watermelon Hill fire burning near Cheney now stands at 60 percent contained and remains at 11,000 acres.

Fire officials said Monday night six engines would work throughout the night monitoring the fire and Tuesday crews will begin mopping up.

All level three and level two evacuations were lowered to level one.

Fire officials say they're trying to get this fire taken care of as quickly as possible to get firefighters headed to other fires across the state.

"We want to get people back into the system if they've got time left," Public Information Officer Chuck Turley said. "People normally come out on 14 day shifts, so if they've got time left we will probably be moving them on to other fires."

There are currently 19 Type 1 and Type 2 management teams deployed across the country, as of Monday evening 17 of them were in Washington.

Farmers see livelihood burned to ashes by Watermelon Hill fire

Farmers see livelihood burned to ashes by Watermelon Hill fire

Firefighters have reached 40-percent containment on the Watermelon Hill fire south of Cheney, which, thanks go better GPS mapping, is being assessed at 11,000 acres in size and all evacuations have been downgraded to Level One.

The evacuation notice being downgraded means residents can return to their homes.

While firefighters are getting a handle on the fire residents in the area are finding their work is just beginning.

Tommi Swannick is just 15 but she can feel the fire's impact.

"I'm probably going to have to help rebuild fence and try to sort cows and stuff," Swannick said.

Swannick's family lost a barn, a stack of hay and all their winter pastures. She says her father even had to put down two cows that caught fire.

"We kind of depend on the cows and our hay and he puts up all this hay. It's pretty much what he does all summer," Swannick said.

Most of the residents in the area report similar loses: Wheat crops gone. Pastures burnt. Fences destroyed.