Washington firefighters battle heat, high winds
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A state of emergency has been declared in 20 Eastern Washington counties because of multiple wildfires and scorching hot temperatures coupled with high winds on Wednesday.
The declaration allows state officials to call up the Washington National Guard and the State Guard. It also directs state agencies to help local governments in responding to wildfires.
Washington state officials are worried about extreme fire conditions, including temperatures above 100 degrees and winds forecast at 30 mph in portions of the state east of the Cascade Range. They also worry about a lack of available firefighting resources in the Northwest.
Wildfires were also burning in Idaho and Oregon on Wednesday.
In Oregon, a Klamath County wildfire turned out to be more destructive than authorities initially believed.
After the fire burned in the rural Moccasin Hill subdivision near Sprague River earlier this week, officials reported six houses destroyed along with 14 outbuildings. But fire managers toured the burn area Tuesday and spokeswoman Ashley Lertora said they found 17 residences and 16 outbuildings destroyed.
In Washington, fire officials said a handful of new wildfires, some started by lightning, are growing in central Washington
"The National Weather Service posted red flag warnings and fire weather watches ... for much of Eastern Washington from Wednesday afternoon through Friday," said the emergency declaration, which Lt. Gov. Brad Owen signed late Tuesday.
The state's largest wildfire, the Mills Canyon blaze near the town of Entiat, is now 40 percent contained and holding steady at about 35 square miles. About 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze.
State fire assistance has been ordered for the Stokes Road fire, burning in the Methow Valley. Spokesman Jacob McCann says that fire has grown to 600 acres with zero containment. Residents of seven homes have been told to leave.
Smaller fires are burning north of Leavenworth and on the northern edges of the Army's rugged Yakima Training Center.
In Idaho, a half dozen air tankers worked to contain a fast-spreading wildfire that has grown to 49 square miles in two days.
The lightning-caused Preacher Fire is burning through grass and brush southwest of Carey and is being fanned by erratic winds. No structures have been reported lost.
The Whiskey Complex of fires in the Boise National Forest has resulted in residents of about 60 homes in the Garden Valley area making voluntary evacuations.Associated Press