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Inslee: ‘This is a different beast…a firestorm’

Fires spreading at unprecedented rate

OLYMPIA — Central Washington faces a firestorm with a growth that may be unprecedented and residents should obey evacuation orders if they are given, Gov. Jay Inslee said today.

Some 50 separate fires are burning in Washington, and state and local agencies are responding as rapidly as possible, Inslee said. The state has activated 100 National Guardsmen trained in firefighting, and is training 1,000 more who are on weekend duty at the Yakima Firing Range. It may seek additional help from active duty military personnel, and from Montana, which is the only Western state not currently battling fires of its own, Inslee said.

Destruction from the Carlton Complex fire in Pateros (SR Photo: Tyler Tjomsland)

But drought and high winds mean some fires will burn for days and are moving at unpredictable and possibly unprecedented speeds. The total number of acres burned jumped from about 79,000 acres Thursday to 202,500 acres by Friday morning. Fires jumped both the Methow and the Okanogan rivers.

A total count of homes destroyed is not yet available.

“Mother Nature is, by in large, in control of these fires,” Inslee said. “This is a different beast. This is a firestorm.”

Residents should obey evacuation orders if directed to leave their homes, he added. “This is not a moment to be pushing the envelope with garden hoses and the like.”

Inslee plans to visit the fire command center in Wenatchee later today after flying over some of the fires.