Much of the devastation from numerous out-of-control Northwest wildfires fanned by high winds was unclear Saturday as officials scrambled to pull in more firefighting resources and douse the flames.
There were certainly dozens of homes lost, and hundreds of evacuations remained in place Saturday. A woman died while evacuating the Lawyer Complex in Idaho, according to the Lewiston Tribune.
On Friday night the town of Chelan was surrounded by flames. Five small lightning fires grew into the Reach fire. It burned into south Chelan, jumped the Columbia River and continued spreading into Douglas County.
The Reach fire is estimated at 2,000 acres, and several other smaller fires are included in the Reach Complex. The Wenatchee World reported Saturday that an estimated 100 structures burned, including homes and cabins. Residents of more than 1,000 homes in the Chelan area and Douglas County were told to evacuate. Commercial structures and the Chelan airport also were threatened.
Chelan County sheriff’s Sgt. Kent Sisson reported that Chelan Fruit lost a warehouse and Chelan Lumber lost a building.
“The Anderson Road area was fairly devastated by fire last night,” he said Saturday.
The Chelan County Public Utilities District reported that more than 30 power poles burned and about 9,000 homes were without power.
Deputy Incident Commander Rob Allen said all regional equipment and firefighters are being used and crews are beginning to come in from Alaska and Canada.
“We’ve already tapped into all the resources on the East Coast,” he said. “Competition for resources is extremely tight.”
The Lawyer Complex in Idaho spread to the east and burned to the edge of the Clearwater River directly across from downtown Kamiah. The lightning-caused fire is estimated at about 16,000 acres.
The Lewiston Tribune reported that a woman died when she suffered a head injury while evacuating. About 50 homes and 75 outbuildings have burned.
Other Washington fires
• The 38,000-acre Wolverine fire near Lake Chelan stayed within containment lines on the north and south ends, and Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center, remained unharmed. Some resources were sent to Chelan to help with the new fires there. There still are evacuations in effect.
• The Nine Mile fire 3 miles west of Oroville burned over 4,600 acres and spread into British Columbia. Structures burned, but it has not been confirmed if they included homes. The fire is 30 percent contained.
• The Tower fire burning on the Washington-Idaho border north of Newport is estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000 acres. The South Baldy Lookout Tower is threatened.
Other Idaho fires
• Wind pushed the Parker Ridge fire north of Bonners Ferry across Westside Road and the Kootenai River, growing by more than 4,000 acres in one day. Its size is now estimated at 6,500 acres. An outbuilding was lost and several homes are threatened.
• The Not Creative fire grew to 120 acres south of Interstate 90 near Rose Lake by Cataldo. Firefighters attempted to put a line around the fire with a bulldozer, but the fire jumped the west line.
Interstate 90 was not closed and drivers were being urged not to slow down to get a look at the fire.
The Red Cross has opened shelters in Washington to assist those displaced by fires. The shelters are located at the Entiat Valley Community Resource Center (2084 Entiat Way, Entiat), Sterling Intermediate School (600 N. James, East Wenatchee), Brewster High School (503 S. Seventh, Brewster), Gess Elementary School (405 E. Lincoln Way, Chewelah), Columbia School (4961B Hunters Shop Road, Hunters) and Republic Elementary School (30306 Highway 20 E., Republic).
With usual firefighting resources exhausted, state and other fire officials were working with the National Guard and considering the use of international fire crews, said Mary Verner, deputy supervisor for wildfire and administration for the Department of Natural Resources.
The state announced Thursday that 100 National Guardsmen would be sent to the Cougar Creek fire in Yakima County. But Verner said Saturday they will instead report on Monday to fires around Chelan.
Verner, a former Spokane mayor, said the use of more National Guard resources, including guardsmen and communications systems, is possible.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared that several fires in Washington and Idaho threaten widespread destruction and are eligible for federal funding.
The Stevens County Complex (also called the Colville Complex), the Stickpin fire in Ferry County, the Reach Complex near Chelan, the Okanogan County Complex (eight fires) and the Municipal fire outside of Orofino, Idaho, will receive funding. FEMA will pay 75 percent of firefighting costs but does not cover damage to homes or infrastructure.
Verner said part of the state’s focus is on prevention.
“We really want folks to know that we cannot afford any more human-started fires,” she said. “Any more fires on the landscape would create a very difficult demand on our resources.”
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