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Firefighters fear high winds could hamper efforts to battle giant wildfire in Washington state

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PORTLAND, Oregon — U.S. Agriculture Secretary is scheduled to participate in a Friday briefing on wildfires burning across the West.

A new fire on Kodiak Island in Alaska burned a library and several homes and people are being urged to evacuate. The fire erupted Thursday night and has burned more than 3 square miles.

Crews in Washington continued to battle the largest blaze in state history, while there were evacuations in Idaho and Montana.

A loot at fire activity in the West:

WASHINGTON

The largest wildfire in Washington state history grew by more than 22 square miles overnight, and firefighters are worried about high winds predicted for this weekend.

The Okanogan Complex of wildfires was listed at 472 square miles Friday, after windy conditions Thursday pushed the fire on a couple of runs. It is only 12 percent contained.

Officials say the fire has destroyed at least 45 primary residences, 49 cabins and 60 outbuildings. Three firefighters died battling the fire last week, and a memorial service for them is planned for Sunday in Wenatchee.

Fire spokeswoman Sierra Hellstrom says temperatures are lower and humidity higher on Friday, which is good news for firefighters. But thunderstorms with high winds predicted for this weekend could fan the flames.

The fire lines were holding as crews fought the largest wildfire on record in Washington state, even as rising temperatures and increased winds stoked the flames.


ALASKA

A fast-moving wildfire has burned a library and several homes in a small, rural Kodiak Island community.

The fire erupted Thursday night in Chiniak, which is on the eastern side of Kodiak Island. It is uncontrolled and has burned more than 3 square miles.

Kodiak Police Chief Rhonda Wallace said early Friday that people were being urged to evacuate and about 100 had checked in with the department. Two people are staying at a shelter at the Kodiak Middle School.

It's not certain how the fire began. It's burning in an area thick with trees and crews are expecting wind gusts of up to 45 mph Friday.


IDAHO

People in west-central Idaho near Riggins have been told to evacuate due to a wildfire that expanded to 40 square miles. Nearly 600 firefighters were working to protect structures along U.S. Highway 95 and the Salmon River.

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MONTANA

Fire officials say residents of the Essex area in northwestern Montana could be out of their homes for up to a week, depending on the behavior of a fire that has closed within a half mile of the town on the southern edge of Glacier National Park.

The Flathead Beacon reports about 30 people attended a community meeting Thursday evening, just hours after they were evacuated.

Incident commander Mike Goicoechea told residents the fire was about 120 yards from BNSF Railway's main line. The rail line and a section of U.S. Highway 2 were closed shortly after the evacuation was announced. The Izaak Walton Inn evacuated its guests and employees.


OREGON

Structural fire crews have returned to protect homes on a wildfire in eastern Oregon as National Guard and other fire crews worked to reinforce lines against winds forecast to be gusting up to 40 mph.

The Canyon Creek Complex fire, which has destroyed more than three dozen homes, covered 135 square miles Friday. The blaze is located south of mostly on the Malheur National Forest.

Spokeswoman Stefanie Gatchell says a cold front bringing rain to western Oregon this weekend will bring thunderstorms and gusty winds to the fire, so crews are working to reinforce their lines.

Smoke made air quality very unhealthy in , but was moderate to good across most of the state.

Meanwhile, the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park reopened Friday after being closed due to a nearby wildfire.

PHOTO: A helicopter makes a water bucket drop as it flies through smoky air while fighting a wildfire that flared up in the late afternoon near Omak, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Firefighters were holding their own Thursday against the largest wildfire on record in Washington state, even as rising temperatures and increased winds stoked the flames. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A helicopter makes a water bucket drop as it flies through smoky air while fighting a wildfire that flared up in the late afternoon near Omak, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Firefighters were holding their own Thursday against the largest wildfire on record in Washington state, even as rising temperatures and increased winds stoked the flames. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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Video:
PHOTO: Washington state firefighters are holding their own against a giant wildfire despite high winds. (Aug. 28)
Washington state firefighters are holding their own against a giant wildfire despite high winds. (Aug. 28)
Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: An airplane used to fight wildfires flies past the sun, which appears orange due to heavy smoke in the air while battling a blaze that flared up in the late afternoon near Omak, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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