At least two people were killed, and dozens of homes were destroyed due to a series of wildfires in eastern Washington that kept firefighters busy over the weekend.
The Gray and Oregon Road fires burned thousands of acres and forced entire towns to evacuate due to erratic fire behavior.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for Spokane County due to the high-risk fire weather and to help coordinate multi-agency efforts to battle the fires.
According to the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Gray Fire around Medical Lake burned approximately 10,900 acres and caused at least one death.
The fast-moving fire also threatened the communities of Four Lakes, Cheney, Lakeland Village, Eastern State Hospital, Martin Hall, and Pine Lodge, forcing the closure of Interstate 90 west of Spokane.
According to the agency, at least 185 structures were damaged or destroyed by flames that continue to spread uncontrollably.
According to the state’s DNR, the Oregon Road Fire in Spokane County burned nearly 10,000 acres and destroyed several homes.
On Friday evening, wind gusts exceeding 35 mph aided in pushing the fire into the homes of Elk residents.
A spokesperson stated that the use of aviation units was restricted due to the high wind speeds, but the state had amassed many ground crews to combat the fires.
According to a DNR spokesperson, at least one body was discovered in a burn zone near Elk on Sunday evening.
Assessments are still being conducted to determine the number of homes and businesses destroyed by the flames.
A more than 700-acre fire near Coulee City, which forced the evacuation of homes in Douglas County, was also being fought by multiple agencies.
There were no initial reports of damage from the fires, which broke out about halfway between Seattle and Spokane.
According to the local sheriff’s department, evacuation notifications were lifted on Friday evening; however, smoke from blazes around the state would likely continue to impact visibilities and air quality levels.
Most of the state was under fire weather alerts into the weekend, as low relative humidity and high winds created ideal conditions for wildfires to spread quickly.
The Washington DNR closed the northern section of the Loomis Natural Resources Conservation Area in Okanogan County on Friday as the Crater Creek Fire in Canada approached the US-Canadian border.
According to the DNR, strong winds pushed the 54,000-acre fire started by lightning toward Loomis.
Flames Rage Beyond Borders: Northern and Southern Neighbors Also Engulfed
Washington was not the only region hit by firestorms in recent days. Both Canada and California reported large fires.
In Canada, raging infernos forced nearly 20,000 people to flee the capital of the Northwest Territories. At least 60 fires were started by intense lightning in California.
According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, nearly 85% of fires in Oregon and Washington this year have been caused by humans and could have been avoided.
Despite the appearance of a busy time for first responders, the fire season in the United States began slowly, according to officials, compared to previous years.
The combination of a wet winter and spring is widely credited with delaying the start of a busy season for fires across the western United States.
According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, the opposite appears to be true across Canada, where more than 30 million acres have been consumed by fires, making 2023 the worst year on record.
Smoke has occasionally drifted into the northern US, triggering air quality alerts for more than 100 million residents.
Source: NEW YORK POST