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Chimps Alert Humans To Wildfire Burning In Central Washington

This story has been updated.

A wildfire that broke out near Cle Elum Saturday has been fully contained according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. The 50-acre fire caused several homes to be evacuated and threatened Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

Jamie, a female chimp, let out a soft high-pitched call when she spotted a plume of smoke rising outside of the sanctuary center’s playroom. The other chimps turned their heads to look. Then, the human caretakers noticed and dialed 911. Staff scrambled, got all the chimps inside and safe, turned on emergency sprinklers and evacuated staff.

Diana Goodrich said she was worried despite multiple helicopters working the fire. Chimps Foxy and Jody were the most nervous.

“They are grooming each other right now and looking out the windows watching the helicopters,” Goodrich said Saturday afternoon. “Just like the humans, keeping an eye on how things are going.”

The sanctuary is home to six females and one male.

Goodrich said she even evacuated her two dogs and two cats. After living through the Taylor Bridge Fire in 2012, she was not taking any chances.

The fire was named the Hart Road Fire. It burned in the same area where the massive Taylor Bridge Fire burned four years ago.  A red flag warning is posted for the wider area starting Sunday.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.