East Pierce team assisting with Taylor Bridge fire near Ellensburg

A firefighter tends to a small brush blaze at the burn site.

A team from East Pierce Fire and Rescue has joined firefighters from across the state to battle the Taylor Bridge wildfire near Ellensburg.

There are presently five members of the department helping to battle the 22,000-acre fire, East Pierce Chief Jerry Thorson said.

One of the department’s three brush engines, manned by a team of three firefighters, were sent to help this past week, he said.

A brush engine is a four-wheel drive wildland firefighting vehicle, about the size of a one-tin pickup truck with a small tank and pump attached.

“It’s really designed to go off-road and fight forestry fires,” Thorson said.

East Pierce has three wildland vehicles because of the agency’s heavily-wooded district.

Thorson said the East Pierce team is primarily engaged in structure protection, going into neighborhoods to reduce fuel for the fire and to create fire breaks around residential areas.

“They’re working hard,” Thorson said.

In addition to the team, Deputy Chief John McDonald was called up as part of the state’s incident management team. Chaplain Stan Flores is also in eastern Washington, offering spiritual comfort to families who have lost everything.

Officials said by Friday the fire was approximately one-third contained; the hope is to have it under control by Sunday.

Thorson did not know when his firefighters would be back on this side of the mountains and said their return depends on progress made on the fire. He also said lightning storms are possible this weekend, increasing the risk of further fires.

The East Pierce team is part of a state mobilization; the district will be reimbursed by the state for their role in fighting the fire, Thorson said.

“We’re not out any funding,” he said.

The firefighters helping fight the Taylor Bridge fire will receive valuable training and experience they can bring back to Bonney Lake, he said.

Closer to home, Thorson said he wanted to remind residents that the fire risk in the area is very high due to the heat and the lack of rain. He urged all residents to be careful with anything that may throw sparks and reiterated the outdoor burn ban presently in effect.