Wildfire Emergency Declared in Washington State

Submitted by KIM ***FYI*** on 8/24/06 at 1:54 PM. ( ) 69.171.240.121

Wildfire Emergency Declared in Wash.
Aug 24 11:05 AM US/Eastern

CONCONULLY, Wash.

Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a statewide wildfire emergency as several large fires burned in Washington state and forecasters predicted more storms with high winds.
"Numerous wildfires across Washington pose a serious threat to homes, infrastructure, businesses and natural resources ... and our firefighting resources have begun to grow scarce," Gregoire said Wednesday following a helicopter tour of the largest fire, in the north-central part of the state.

The proclamation allows state agencies to send money and resources to help local jurisdictions battle the blazes.

As the governor flew over the 200-square-mile fire complex, flames leaped 100 feet into the air. Nearly 3,000 firefighters were assigned to the area.

"It's very rugged terrain," Gregoire said. "The firefighters go in and put up a line, and the fire will jump a mile over the line. ... We're just hoping now the weather cooperates."

In Columbia County, in the southeast part of the state, a fire south of Dayton almost doubled in size in about 24 hours to an estimated 25,000 acres, nearly 40 square miles. Lightning-sparked fires had destroyed two homes and 10 outbuildings in the county by Wednesday evening, said Lisa Caldwell, an emergency management official.

Residents along a roughly five-mile stretch of the Tucannon River were told to evacuate on Wednesday.

In nearby Walla Walla County, also in southeastern Washington, some residents along Coppei Creek were urged to evacuate as three fires burned nearby.

Thirty-five residents evacuated from a nursing home in Dayton were allowed to return after smoke over the area had cleared, and residents of some of the 200 homes that were evacuated also came back, said Ray Steiger, an information officer at the Columbia County fire complex.

In Utah, a firefighter who died while battling a blaze in the Fishlake National Forest was taken to the cemetery on a fire truck Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people, including Gov. Jon Huntsman, attended the funeral for Spencer Koyle, 33, who died Aug. 17. He was scouting a fire when it suddenly trapped him, authorities said.

"There were a lot of tears," said Susan Marzec, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman.

The fire continued to burn Wednesday about 15 miles north of the funeral in Holden. It covered nearly 8,000 acres, or 12 1/2 square miles.

Nearly 7 million acres, close to 11,000 square miles, have burned across the U.S. this year, well above the average of about 4.4 million acres by this time of year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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