August 23, 2009 in City

Wildfires burn across region

Two homes destroyed near Okanogan
Staff And Wire Reports
 

Wildfires near Okanogan in north-central Washington destroyed at least two homes and prompted a temporary evacuation Saturday.

The Oden Road fire has burned more than 6,000 acres, and about 200 people were given a mandatory evacuation notice early Saturday. Most of those residents were allowed to go home Saturday night, according to Chuck Johnson, information officer for the fire.

It was one of several fires burning across the region Saturday, ranging from relatively small fires being mopped up in Spokane County and North Idaho to a 40,000-acre complex of five blazes 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 most serious in terms of potential property damage. Johnson said that winds eased up Saturday, which helped keep the blaze in check. Parts of state Route 20 west of Okanogan were closed, 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 spread rapidly, although no homes were threatened. Officials said 40,000 acres had been burned and the fires were still growing; portions of several roads in the area – including state Highways 24, 240 and 241 – were closed.

A fire three miles southeast of Nespelem 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.

In northwestern Whitman County, firefighters contained a 2,500-acre blaze known as the Texas Lake fire on Saturday. In Grant County, a four-fire complex that had threatened homes near Soap Lake was contained.

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.


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