After the fire: Bridgeport homes, infrastructure scorched by Pearl Hill blaze

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BRIDGEPORT — When the Cold Springs Fire in Okanogan County launched embers across the Columbia River, it created the Pearl Hill Fire. One of the first places to ignite was the town of Bridgeport’s wastewater treatment facility.

Burning brush in a nearby gulley torched the plant’s main control shed, and now the city’s waste systems must be operated manually.

Electricity came back on in Bridgeport today after nearly three days of no service. The town was without running water after the fire, which moved quickly through the west section of town and destroyed about 15 homes.

Once within the town boundaries, the fire hopscotched, destroying individual structures while sparing others right next door.

With fire blowing everywhere, no utilities in place, and COVID-19 forcing social separation, the town of Brewster, about a dozen miles west, became the first place available for evacuees. The Red Cross set up shelter services at Brewster High School, where about 400 people checked in for meals.

Ninety-one of them were H-2A agricultural workers from Highland Orchards, who spent the first night in a Brewster city park with no tents or supplies. Red Cross officials said those workers were the only ones who made use of the shelter for overnight accommodations.

The worst may be past for Bridgeport, but the Pearl Hill Fire still burns its way into Douglas County, driven by the prevailing winds. Today teams battling the blaze said the 174,000-acre fire may not be contained until Monday.