Okanogan fire destroys home, prompts evacuation

SATURDAY, AUG. 22, 2009, 3:18 P.M.

Wildfires near Okanogan in north central Washington have destroyed one home and are threatening 50 others, prompting a mandatory evacuation of the area.

The Oden Road fire has burned 5,000 acres, and about 200 people are being asked to leave the area, according to Chuck Johnson, the information officer for the fire.

It was one of several fires burning all across the region Saturday, ranging from relatively small fires being mopped up in Spokane County and North Idaho to a 30,000-acre blaze on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The blazes, along with still-burning wildfires in British Columbia, helped contribute to smoky skies in the Inland Northwest on Saturday.

The Okanogan area fire is among the largest, and is the one that is most serious in terms of potential property damage. Johnson said that winds have eased up, and so firefighters hope that helps keep the blaze in check. Parts of state route 20 west of Okanogan were closed late Friday, and parts of the Methow Valley lost electricity on Saturday.

The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Okanogan Middle School.

Meanwhile, a series of fires on and around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are spreading rapidly, although no homes are threatened. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said Saturday that 40,000 acres had been burned, and roads in the area – including state highways 24, 240 and 241 – were closed.

A fire three miles southeast of the Colville Agency was expected to be contained late Saturday. The Buffalo Lake fire burned more than 300 acres.

Crews had contained a 50-acre fire near Harrison, Idaho, that prompted campers to evacuate a campground Friday night, according to the Idaho Department of Lands. Firefighters will finish mop-up work today and Sunday.

Matt Castle, spokesman for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, said crews in Spokane County were mopping up several fires of 20 acres or less. The fires were sparked by lightning early Friday morning.

In Grant County, a four-fire complex that had threatened homes near Soap Lake has been contained.

New information about the Texas Lake fire in northwestern Whitman County was not available this afternoon. That fire burned more than 2,000 acres by Friday, and hadn’t neared any homes.

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