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Cold Creek fire that scorched Rattlesnake Mountain nearly contained

Benton County deputies assist with Cold Creek wildfire

Benton County Sheriff Office released this short video of a small airplane dropping water on the Cold Creek wildfire in the area of SR 240 and SR 24. Photo courtesy Franklin Fire District 3.
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Benton County Sheriff Office released this short video of a small airplane dropping water on the Cold Creek wildfire in the area of SR 240 and SR 24. Photo courtesy Franklin Fire District 3.

A fire that burned on Rattlesnake Mountain the past couple of days north of Richland is now about 80 percent contained and has not grown, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Cold Creek Fire had scorched 41,920 acres by late Friday afternoon and blackened much of the north side of the mountain, according to Ron Fryer, public information officer at the incident command center for the fire.

But DNR said Saturday that firefighters have nearly contained the blaze.

The fire was determined to have been human-caused, but investigators don’t have any other information about its origin. It started shortly before 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Mother Nature has been really kind to us,” Fryer said Friday as firefighters were gaining control over the fire.

Cooler temperatures and lighter winds were helping firefighters with containment, Fryer said.

Crews were monitoring the control line on Saturday and were hoping to have 100 percent containment by Sunday.

Two fires burned together

The fire started Thursday afternoon as two small fires near Highway 24 burned together, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The fire burned through wildland west of Highway 240 on ALE, which is west of Highway 240. The production portion of the Hanford nuclear reservation is on the east side of Highway 240.

The fire jumped the highway to the main portion of the Hanford Site at one point, but was quickly put out there, according to Hanford officials.

Several plumes of smoke from active fire rise into the air from the fire charred landscape of the Cold Creek wildfire Friday morning near the Hanford Nuclear site near Richland. The nuclear waste vitrification plant, still under construction, is visible in the lower left corner of this aerial photo taken from an altitude of about 4,000 feet. Mount Rainier is faintly visible through the smoky haze in the upper right corner. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Benton County Fire 2 had put in a bulldozer line on the south side of Rattlesnake Mountain off of the monument earlier this month as a precaution in case a fire jumped the top of the mountain.

Multiple agencies fought fire

Firefighters from Benton County fire districts, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla area crews, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management were all helping in the effort to get it under control. More than 200 firefighters have been assigned.

Hanford firefighters initially responded to the fire. The Department of Energy owns the ALE Reserve, although Fish and Wildlife manages it.

The last major fire on Rattlesnake Mountain was the Range 12 Fire in summer 2016, which burned 35,000 acres. Fires also burned there in 2000 and 2007.

Rattlesnake Mountain

Rattlesnake Mountain, the highest area in the Mid-Columbia, has been designated a traditional cultural property under the National Historic Preservation Act and has long been used as a sacred site by Northwest tribes. Its peak has an elevation of about 3,500 feet.

The north side of Rattlesnake Mountain is part of the federally owned Hanford Reach National Monument and is in a section of the monument closed to the public called the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, or ALE.

It has had little human disturbance since World War II when it was taken over by the federal government as part of the security zone around the Hanford nuclear reservation, which produced plutonium for nuclear weapons through the Cold War.