Wildfires Kill 1, Force Evacuations in Washington State

Fast-moving wildfires are raging through eastern Washington, forcing thousands of people to evacuate, and “problematic” weather is making it tough for firefighters to put out the flames, according to officials on Saturday.

The Gray Fire, which started on Friday night and spread to over 9,500 acres near Spokane, destroyed over 185 buildings, according to the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The department stated in a social media post that it was 0% contained. Uncertain of its origin, the fire broke out Friday around midday and was stoked by wind and dry vegetation. As a result of the fire, authorities in Spokane County issued a state of emergency as of Saturday noon.

Medical Lake, Washington, home to 4,800 people, received level 3 evacuation orders, often known as “Go Now” orders. Officials reported that Saturday saw power outages in certain areas of Medical Lake.

“Please do not come to the city of Medical Lake right now,” Spokane County Sheriff John NowelsΒ told station KREM 2. “This fire is rushing, and I don’t want residents to underestimate how quickly they can find themselves in trouble.”

According to Nowels, deputies were “running from house to house” pleading with residents to evacuate their houses, according to NBC News.

β€œWe’ve had to rescue people by boat. We’ve had to rescue people by helicopter,” Nowels said.

The Department of Natural Resources urged people to respect Level 3 (evacuations), saying that failure would impede assistance.

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By early Saturday morning, another fire near Elk, Washington, known as the Oregon Road Fire, had consumed 3,000 acres and 30 buildings. The government reported that over 100 more properties were in jeopardy.

Additionally, residents in adjacent Four Lakes and Cheney, including employees and students at Eastern Washington University, were instructed to evacuate.

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“My thoughts are with everyone in Medical Lake, Elk, Winona and the many other communities across Washington impacted by today’s wildfires,” Washington Department of Natural Resources Public Lands Commissioner Hilary FranzΒ saidΒ Friday. “We’ve got a long night ahead of us, but please keep yourselves safe, and we’ll focus on bringing these fast-moving fires under control.”

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Louis Ebert

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