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Three firefighters killed near Twisp

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 19, 2015

Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., on Wednesday.   (Ted Warren / Associated Press)
Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., on Wednesday. (Ted Warren / Associated Press)
Staff and wire reports
Three firefighters were killed and four others were injured Wednesday as raging wildfires advanced on towns in north-central Washington, authorities said. The firefighters who died in a fire near Twisp were members of a U.S. Forest Service crew. “This fire was raging,” said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers. “The wind came up. The fire was just going in every direction.” The U.S. Forest Service said in a statement that the firefighters were involved in a vehicle accident and the fire overtook them on Department of Natural Resources land. The four injured firefighters included one from the Forest Service, two from DNR and one DNR contractor. “We are devastated by the tragic loss of three of our Forest Service firefighters,” said Mike Williams, forest supervisor of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and fellow crewmembers of these brave firefighters.” “My heart breaks over the loss of life,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a written statement. “I know all Washington joins me and Trudi in sending our prayers to the families of these brave firefighters. They gave their lives to protect others. It was their calling, but the loss for their families is immense.” The news came after officials urged people in the popular outdoor-recreation centers of Twisp and Wintrop, in the scenic Methow River valley about 115 miles northeast of Seattle, to evacuate as a complex of fires in the area covered about 50 square miles. The Okanogan County Emergency Management department issued the order for the towns, which combined have a population of about 1,300. More than 4,000 homes have been evacuated in Twisp and Winthrop. The town of Conconully, home to about 200 people 20 miles northwest of Omak, had also been evacuated. Angela Seydel, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Wednesday evening that 4,000 homes in the region had been evacuated. “It is really bad out there. The fires have just exploded,” she said. “We’re just directing everybody to head south.” The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the eastern portion of the state from 11 a.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Friday. Officials said temperatures will climb above 90 degrees and relative humidity will drop as low as 14 percent. Drought and heat have combined to make this fire season of the most active in the United States in recent years. Nearly 29,000 firefighters are battling some 100 large blazes across the West, including in Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington and California.
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