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Washington wildfire now largest in state history

Warren Heslip, 47, of Southland, New Zealand, receives a yellow firefighting shirt on Monday at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Australian and New Zealand firefighters have arrived in the United States and prepared to fan out to help fight wildfires burning in several western states.
Warren Heslip, 47, of Southland, New Zealand, receives a yellow firefighting shirt on Monday at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Australian and New Zealand firefighters have arrived in the United States and prepared to fan out to help fight wildfires burning in several western states. The Associated Press

The wildfire burning in north-central Washington is now the largest in state history.

The Okanogan Complex of wildfires has surpassed last year’s Carlton Complex blazes, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said Monday.

The blazes were measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, slightly more than the Carlton fires, which also burned in Okanogan County.

The Okanogan Complex grew by more than 26 square miles Sunday and was expected to grow even more in coming days. Isaacson did not have a containment estimate, but there is very little containment on the wildfire.

Isaacson called the record unfortunate and said the fire could burn until rain and snow season arrives.

“It’s only Aug. 24th,” he said. “In our district, we could see this go clear to the first of November.”

Although a fire-weather warning was in effect for the area through Tuesday evening (Aug. 25), the forecast calls for increasing fire activity in the afternoons.

Isaacson said conditions are “not the same caliber” as those that have been fueling the fire’s incredible growth over the past two weeks.

“We’re still paying attention,” he said.

Officials were still trying to determine how many homes and other structures have been burned by the Okanogan Complex.

About 1,250 people are battling the wildfire, Isaacson said. Last week, three firefighters were killed and four hurt when they were overtaken while trying to escape the flame.

Daniel Lyon, the Puyallup firefighter hurt Wednesday in the Twisp River fire, remained in critical condition in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seatatle, said Susan Gregg, a hospital spokeswoman.

Another firefighter, a 47-year-old man from Okanogan County, was discharged Monday from Harborview, Gregg said.

Sixteen large wildfires are burning across Central and Eastern Washington, covering more than 920 square miles. More than 200 homes have been destroyed, and more than 12,000 homes and thousands of other structures remain threatened.

The blazes were among several large fires burning across the West, taxing firefighting resources and prompting officials to seek help from other states and even abroad.

Resources were so strained that state officials took the unprecedented step of seeking volunteers to help fight the flames.

Fire officials over the weekend began providing basic fire training to volunteers who have machinery like backhoes and bulldozers so they can help dig fire lines.

Officials said Australia and New Zealand are sending firefighters to help battle the Western blazes.

About 70 fire managers from Australia and New Zealand arrived in Boise, Idaho, and were to receive protective gear Monday before heading out to fight fires burning in the West.

The Seattle Times contributed to this report.

To volunteer to fight

state’s wildfires

The state Department of Natural Resources is accepting volunteers who who want to help fight Washington’s wildfires. The details:

Who do I contact?

Temporary coordination centers in Colville and Omak will review offers and organize training for those not qualified to work on a fire line.

Where are the centers?

Omak: City Hall, 2 Ash St. N., Omak. Phone: 360-826-2546; email: CRC.Omak@gmail.com.

Colville: State Department of Transportation, second floor, 440 N. Highway 395. Phone: 509-675-7847; email: CRC.Colville@gmail.com.

How do I volunteer?

Phone or email coordinators at the centers in advance with your desired role; your fire qualifications, if any; location and contact information. The type of credentials considered appropriate for a volunteer include “Red Card” firefighters and “Blue Card” equipment operators.

Phone messages and emails can be sent to the centers during the day and after hours.

What happens next?

Coordinators will review the offers and sign up volunteers and contractors, determine where they can help the most and arrange for training if needed.

Deployments will depend on professional firefighting staff members being available to accompany, direct and ensure the safety of the volunteers and others.

Source: State Department of Natural Resources

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