Washington wildfires turn deadly as thousands ordered to evacuate
Thousands of people in Washington state are under evacuation orders after wildfires have turned deadly.
Damien Henderson, Storyful
At least one person was killed and thousands are under mandatory evacuation orders as fast-moving wildfires tear through eastern Washington and “problematic” weather is making it difficult for firefighters to get control of the flames, officials said Saturday.
The so-called Gray Fire burned over 185 structures near Spokane and had burned over 9,500 acres as of Saturday morning, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said. It was 0% contained, the department said in a social media post. It wasn’t clear how the fire started, but it sparked around noon Friday and was fueled by wind and dry brush. Officials in Spokane County declared a state of emergency as of noon Saturday in response to the fire.
Level 3 evacuations, also called “Go Now” orders, were issued for the city of Medical Lake, Washington, where about 4,800 people live. Parts of Medical Lake were also without power Saturday, officials said.
“Please do not come to the city of Medical Lake right now,” Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels told station KREM 2. “This fire is moving very rapidly, and I don’t want residents to underestimate how quickly they can find themselves in trouble.”
Nowels said deputies were “running from house to house” urging people to leave their homes, NBC News reported.
“We’ve had to rescue people by boat. We’ve had to rescue people by helicopter,” Nowels said.
“Please honor Level 3 (evacuation), not doing so is hindering response,” the Department of Natural Resources said.
Another blaze known as the Oregon Road Fire near Elk, Washington, had burned 3,000 acres and destroyed 30 structures by Saturday morning. Over 100 more homes were threatened, the department said.
People were also told to evacuate in nearby Four Lakes and Cheney, including staff and students at Eastern Washington University.
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“My thoughts are with everyone in Medical Lake, Elk, Winona and the many other communities across Washington impacted by today’s wildfires,” Washington Department of Natural Resources Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said Friday. “We’ve got a long night ahead of us, but please keep yourselves safe, and we’ll focus on bringing these fast-moving fires under control.”
Contributing: The Associated Press