September 17, 2012 in City

Help battling fires arrives from north

Canada sends firefighters, support crew
Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press

SEATTLE – Washington and Oregon crews just aren’t big enough for the wildfires in Washington, so officials are calling Canada for help.

More than 100 firefighters and support crew were expected to arrive Sunday and today, said Carol Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Coordination Center, which manages forest fires in Washington and Oregon.

The Canadians, from British Columbia, are joining about 3,500 Washington and Oregon crews fighting five large fires in Washington. U.S. officials are also talking to Alberta officials about sending more firefighters.

“I think it’s kind of neat the crews from Canada are coming down to help us,” Connolly said.

She said the two countries work out these agreements during the winter – “and hope we never have to use them.”

Another 800 people from the Northwest are fighting fires in other states, mostly in Idaho, California and Montana, Connolly said.

The number of big wildfires across the nation this season has drained resources, she said. More than 14,000 people have fought wildfires in the United States this season.

Every available firefighter in Washington and Oregon is already fighting fires and more people are needed, she said. All of Washington’s current big wildfires started during a Sept. 8 lightning storm.

The largest wildfire in Washington is a complex of fires burning over about 51 square miles in the Wenatchee area. The Wenatchee complex is only 17 percent contained and has forced hundreds of people out of their homes.

A majority of the 700 homes were under an evacuation order Sunday because they were in imminent danger, Connolly said.

Evacuations were also ordered near two other fires: the Yakima complex burning on about 6,000 acres and the Okanogan complex, which is burning north of Wenatchee on nearly 4,000 acres.

The Cascade Creek complex of fires was burning on about 6,000 acres.

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