Washington state wildfires force evacuation of town, destroy homes
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A wildfire burning out of control in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains destroyed at least 35 homes and forced the evacuation of an entire town early on Friday, as firefighters faced another tough day battling the blaze amid drought-like conditions.
Four separate fires triggered by lightning in the Methow Valley merged into two on Thursday, quickly scorching 15 miles of land and sending flames encroaching on the central Washington town of Pateros, some 120 miles northeast of Seattle, local emergency officials said.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for the community's nearly 800 residents and at least 35 structures were destroyed by early Friday, fire spokesman Jim Archambeault said.
"We have zero percent containment on two fires under extreme burning conditions," Archambeault said. "The fires are burning on 168,000 acres, but we suspect it’s actually much larger."
There have been no reported injuries so far, he said.
The fires, known as the Carlton Complex, were among dozens burning from northern California to Idaho as the nation’s drought-parched Western states enter their annual fire season.
Both Washington and Oregon have declared states of emergency in swaths of the states as wildfires scorched thousands of acres, destroying homes, outbuildings, and agricultural land.
In Oregon, more than a dozen fires have erupted in the past week, with one of the largest, the Waterman Complex, burning more than 4,300 acres 10 miles northeast of the small eastern city of Mitchell. Officials ordered about 20 households to evacuate.
In Washington, firefighters predicted another frustrating day trying to contain the Carlton Complex blaze, which was spreading rapidly over parched grass and timber amid hot and windy conditions.
"Without an improvement in weather conditions we could possibly see some very large growth" on Friday, Archambeault said.
The nearby town of Brewster also was threatened but evacuations had not yet been ordered.
About 50 miles away on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, a separate blaze called the Chiwaukum Creek fire left a heavy layer of smoke visible 100 miles away in Seattle, with two-day-old evacuation orders still in effect early Friday for nearly 900 dwellings near the near the Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth.