While temperatures fell Friday and the humidity rose, that was about the only good news for folks and firefighters in southeastern Washington State, as a nearly 50,000-acre wildfire continued to blaze. More than 100 homes have been destroyed according to authorities.
Wash. Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a state of emergency earlier in the week (see below), as more than 1,000 firefighters looked to contain the fire into the weekend. The fire was one of several blazing across the eastern half of the state. Many of the homes destroyed in the biggest fire were cabins. No deaths or major injuries had been reported as of Friday evening.
On Thursday. Gov. Gregoire noted that, “We face a siege of wildfire across our state. There are now six major wildfires burning in eight different counties, with the potential for large fires to erupt over the next several days and weeks on both sides of the Cascade Mountains.”
The proclamation allows Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, director of the Washington Military Department, to order the Washington Army and Air National Guard to active duty to assist in wildfire operations or to help local jurisdictions to recover from wildfire damages should they be needed. The proclamation also sets the stage for the state to possibly request federal aid to help individuals, farmers and businesses recover from wildfire losses and directs state agencies to redeploy resources to assist in firefighting activities. It also gives agencies authorization to take protective steps such as closing campgrounds and state parks.
The governor said she signed the emergency proclamation based on the recommendation of State Patrol Chief John Batiste and Maj. Gen. Lowenberg. “Both Chief Batiste and Gen. Lowenberg agreed that the proclamation was a prudent, proactive step to protect the lives, property, the environment and economy of the state,” said Gregoire.
This was the first emergency proclamation to be signed by Gov. Gregoire. Gov. Gary Locke signed a similar statewide emergency proclamation for wildfires in 2000.
Washington was just one of several western states on the move against fires over the last week. Fires were also burning in Montana, Idaho and Arizona.
In Idaho, officials were battling a 2,000-acre blaze which had threatened more than 70 homes as of Friday evening.
According to The National Interagency Fire Center a couple dozen large fires, totaling nearly 275,000 acres, were burning into the weekend in several western states.
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