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Wildfires Force Evacuation Of Towns, Hospital In Washington State

Smoke and flames rise from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday.
Ted S. Warren
Smoke and flames rise from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday.

This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET:

The small town of Pateros in north central Washington has emptied out as wildfires burning in the area destroyed as many as 100 homes.

The roughly 650 residents of Pateros — as well as a nearby hospital — were evacuated late Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the fire had grown to 168,000 acres by midday Friday.

"Simply put, there's a firestorm in Washington right now," Inslee said.

Various wildfires are currently plaguing several Western states, as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia. With 20 major fires burning in Oregon and Washington, authorities are calling for help from other states.

"We don't have anything available anymore," Carol Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, told the Portland Oregonian. "We're out of hot shot crews, we're out of initial attack crews, we're at a drawdown for incident management teams."

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told AP that he'd heard of no injuries from any of the four wildfires in the Pateros area.

"The whole town was evacuated," Rogers said. "It was a chaotic mess but we got everybody on the highway."

You can see a small gallery of dramatic photos here.

"Last night, it really looked like the caldron of hell," resident Tim Germaine told KCPQ, the Fox affiliate in Tacoma. "You can see flames everywhere you look."

Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster was closed and residents in parts of the town were asked to evacuate. Several highways in the area have been closed, according to local news reports.

"The whole area was ablaze," Keith Roe, whose home outside Twisp burned, told KCPQ. "I knew it was gone. I went up there today and it was gone, all gone."

As we reported yesterday, the Chiwaukum Creek Fire in central Washington led to a large-scale evacuation order, with residents of 860 homes told to leave immediately and an additional 800 homes under less immediate threat.

"Several highways have been closed and homes evacuated near the central Washington city of Leavenworth," which is about 100 miles east of Seattle, member station KUOW reports.

Conditions are poor for firefighting. Temperatures are expected to reach into the 90s on Friday, with continuing gusting winds. KUOW reporter Chris Lehman says that temperatures should cool in the region this weekend.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.
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