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Fast-growing Washington wildfire burns 2 homes

July 18, 2014
Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A fast-growing cluster of wildfires scorching north-central Washington state's scenic Methow Valley burned at least two homes Thursday, authorities said.

The Carlton Complex of fires covers 28 square miles of the valley near the town of Twisp, and is being pushed by high temperatures and strong winds.

Fire spokesman Jacob McCann also said there have been unconfirmed reports that eight other homes have burned in the four blazes that make up the complex and noted that "we have extreme fire behavior and rapid growth."

The fires have prompted the closure of Highway 20 at Loup Loup Pass, he said.

Meanwhile, another wildfire about 100 miles south chased people from nearly 900 homes as it burned near the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth.

The Chiwaukum Creek Fire sent a light dusting of ash over Leavenworth, where the German-style motif provides a backdrop to Oktoberfest and a Christmas tree lighting festival.

The fire's smoke plume rose 25,000 feet into the air. The blaze closed 35 miles of U.S. Highway 2, stretching from Leavenworth to Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains.

"There's a huge cloud of smoke above us," Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who lives just outside of Leavenworth, said Thursday morning. "The winds started to pick up a little. It's just like snowfall here with the ash coming down. It's fine ash. We're getting all this ash fall."

Residents of 860 homes have been told they should leave immediately, fire officials said. Another 800 homes were less seriously threatened.

Authorities said Thursday morning that the Chiwaukum Creek Fire has grown to more than 10 square miles. It was first detected Tuesday.

"The weather and winds are not in our favor," said fire spokeswoman Mary Bean. She said temperatures were expected to top 100 degrees with winds gusting to 30 mph in the area Thursday.

She said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

About 1,000 firefighters were fighting blazes around the state that included the Mills Canyon Fire, the state's largest at 35 square miles.

Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor's offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows state officials to call up the National Guard.

Elsewhere across the West:

— OREGON: A fire that started Wednesday afternoon in a northeast Oregon field raced quickly across as much as 20,000 acres, or some 30 square miles, before firefighters stopped its advance, the Morrow County sheriff's office said. Undersheriff Steven Myren said no homes or other buildings were lost, "although the fire did get uncomfortably close to some." Several other fires have blackened parts of the state.

— UTAH: A wildfire encroaching on homes in the Tooele County town of Stockton had burned about 200 acres. Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry said the fire burned part of a water tower but it's believed no homes have been destroyed. A 27-year-old Tooele man has been arrested on charges that he ignited the fire with matches. Police said the suspect, Timothy West, was a volunteer firefighter for the town several years ago, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry told The Salt Lake Tribune.

— IDAHO: In central Idaho, the lightning-caused Preacher Fire has scorched more than 50 square miles, burning quickly through grass and brush. More than 300 personnel have been called in to suppress a wildfire inside the Boise National Forest that tripled in size overnight and is steadily spreading. The lightning-caused Whiskey Complex Fire consumed 7 square miles of forest land as of Thursday.

— CALIFORNIA: Evacuation orders have been called off for several rural homes in Northern California as firefighters took advantage of cool, moist conditions. Some residents near the destructive fire in Shasta County have been advised they may need to evacuate again. The blaze has burned more than 10,000 acres, or nearly 17 square miles. Marijuana-growing activity led to the fire starting Friday, authorities have said. California fire officials say a body has been found in the area. Authorities say it looks like the victim was trying to flee the fire. No other details about the victim were immediately available.

 
 

 

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