The Latest: 2 vehicles involved in deadly Washington fire

AP News
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Posted: Aug 21, 2015 5:21 PM
The Latest:  2 vehicles involved in deadly Washington fire

TWISP, Wash. (AP) — The latest on wildfires in Washington state, including those that killed three firefighters (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

More details are emerging about the incident in which three firefighters died while battling huge wildfires in north-central Washington.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday a group of firefighters tried to escape the flames in two vehicles and on foot.

One vehicle made it out of danger Wednesday, but the other vehicle crashed and was overrun by flames. That's the vehicle in which the three firefighters died. Rogers said the four firefighters who were injured, one critically, were among those who had to escape on foot.

Rogers said it is not clear when the county coroner will release the cause of death of the three firefighters.

The Okanogan Complex consists of five wildfires that are burning within what is Washington's largest county in size. The fires are threatening more than 5,100 homes.

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10:50 a.m.

Out-of-control blazes in north-central Washington have destroyed buildings, but the situation is so chaotic that authorities have "no idea" how many homes may have been lost.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday that "we have lost them, but I don't know how many."

The complex of fires that killed three firefighters earlier this week has blown up, growing more than 100 square miles in a day to 252 square miles.

A National Weather Service warning of extreme fire danger was set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday, which may bring some relief to firefighters.

Despite the growth, mandatory evacuations for the small towns of Twisp and Tonasket have been reduced. Residents of those towns can return to their homes but were warned to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.

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10:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration authorizing federal help for the massive wildfires burning out of control in Washington state.

Obama on Friday declared an emergency and authorized the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The order covers 11 counties in central and eastern Washington as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation.

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8:36 a.m.

A massive complex of blazes that killed three firefighters in north-central Washington state has grown by more than 100 square miles in a day.

Fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said early Friday that the wildfires have grown to just over 252 square miles since Thursday morning. He says they are largely burning uncontrolled as flames keep jumping fire lines.

Isaacson says officials don't know how many homes or other buildings have been destroyed. They have ordered the partial evacuation of the town of Okanogan, which has 2,500 residents.

Isaacson says even the fire base camp in Okanogan has been told to be prepared to evacuate.

There were 820 firefighters fighting the blazes Friday, two days after flames overran firefighters, killing three and injuring four.

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7:50 a.m.

A multitude of large wildfires burning across arid Washington state have so overtaxed firefighters that officials took the unprecedented step of calling for volunteers to help fight the flames.

The state Department of Natural Resources said late Thursday that it would review civilians' offers to help and send them where they would be most useful. Volunteers could start applying Friday at centers in the communities of Omak and Colville.

It is the first time the state has asked for volunteers as an explosive fire season has led to the deaths of three firefighters and the evacuation of entire towns.

It comes even after fire managers from Australia and New Zealand were recruited to help combat blazes in the West.