Several raging wildfires in Washington state have claimed the lives of three firefighters so far, with four others, including one in critical condition, injured, in what has been described as a “hellstorm” in the state.
The Associated Press reports that the three firefighters were battling the blaze at the small town of Twisp in Washington state, but authorities are not “immediately releasing specific details” until the families of the victims are notified.
“The fire was racing and the winds were blowing in every direction and then it would shift,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said, describing the difficulty in extinguishing the Washington state wildfires.
“It was a hellstorm up here.”
A spokeswoman for Okanogan County’s Emergency Management also described the severity of the Washington state blazes.
“It is really bad out there. The fires have just exploded.”
At least 4,000 homes have been evacuated in affected areas in Washington state as at least three groups of fires continue to spread.
My deepest condolences & thoughts are w/ the families of 3 firefighters who lost their lives protecting others battling the Twisp fire. -PM— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) August 20, 2015
The fire near Twisp, Washington – where over 1,000 residents and visitors have been asked to evacuate – has covered approximately two square miles so far. Another group of wildfires near the town of Conconully, just bordering a national wildlife refuge, has grown to nearly 50 square miles. Another and even fiercer blaze has already torched over 100 square miles near Chelan, Washington, a town south of both Twisp and Conconully.
Highways leading to northern areas in Washington state have been closed as the Okanogan Emergency Management continues to instruct people to head south until the raging fires are extinguished.
Reuters reports that the raging wildfires in Washington state have forced the state’s Department of Natural Resources to take severe measures for the safety of the people. All industrial forest activity in the state has been down for the first time in over 20 years.
According to Spokane, Washington’s KREM2 television channel, the Washington state wildfires have torched over “50 homes, 60 other structures, and more than 235,000 acres of land.” Washington state Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency late last month as the wildfire season approached.
President Barack Obama has been following up on the situation in Washington state and expressed his grief over the deaths of the three firefighters.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, the president’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of these brave Americans,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in an emailed statement.
Other western states, including Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and California, are also suffering from major blazes during this year’s wildfire season.
Are you in Washington state and have you been affected by the wildfires in your neighborhood? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
[Photo by US Department of Agriculture]