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Ferry County evacuations ordered for fast-moving fires

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 21, 2015, 1:01 p.m.

Evacuations have been ordered for some northern sections of Ferry County as firefighters battle multiple blazes in the region.

The Ferry County Sheriff’s Office has issued mandatory evacuations along Highway 395 north of Deadman Creek Road to Barstow, including the Matsen Creek Community. The Ferry County Sheriff’s office Facebook page reports that Highway 395 is closed from the Kamloops Bridge to Orient. Highway 21 from the 13 Mile Campground to Highway 127 toward Keller also is closed, as is Boulder Pass. The Renner Lake Fire, believed to have been sparked by lightning on Aug. 11, is quickly moving south/southeast and is believed to be around 1,000 acres as of Friday.

Evacuations remain in place along Springdale-Hunters Road in Stevens County, according to Stevens County Fire District 1. The town of Springdale has not been evacuated, but the fire is moving east and evacuation notices may change today, the district said. Randall Rishe, spokesman for the Carpenter Road Fire in Stevens County, said officials expect 30 mph wind gusts this afternoon from the northwest. Firefighters battling the Carpenter Road Fire are hoping to establish defensive lines today. That fire is now about 27,800 acres, growing about 7,000 acres overnight, officials say.

Rishe said the fire has “stayed within the parameters we wanted to see - it hasn’t jumped Springdale-Hunters Road.” Some 365 people are fighting the Stevens County fire.

“Everybody is doing well. This morning we spent a lot of time talking about safety and about making sure we look out for each other,” Rishe said.

The Spokane Indian Reservation remains on a Level 2 evacuation status, meaning residents should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. Shelters are in place at Hunters and Loon Lake for evacuating residents.

The fire is moving toward a uranium mine on the reservation, but Rishe said officials weren’t too concerned.

“There is no expectation that the fire will actually get there,” he said.

The fire is about four miles from the mine, he said. Still, fire officials are drafting contingency plans, and firefighters are not using contaminated water from near the mine.

The Midnite Mine,which operated until 1981, is a Superfund cleanup site. About 33 million tons of radioactive waste rock and ore remain at the 350-acre site above the Spokane River. The mine features a series of open pits filled with mildly radioactive heavy metals and water.

State mobilization resources arrived at the Okanogan Complex fires last night. The fire, estimated at around 125,000 acres, is threatening homes in Tonasket, Twisp, Riverside and rural areas near Omak. Wind gusts in excess of 30 miles per hour are expected there today.

Also Friday, President Barack Obama signed an order authorizing FEMA assistance for Washington’s wildfires.

Priest Lake residents were put on evacuation notice overnight.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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