The Latest: Count of homes lost is weeks away

AP News
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Posted: Aug 22, 2015 6:33 PM
The Latest: Count of homes lost is weeks away

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

3:30 p.m.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers says it is too early to say how many homes have been burned by a series of wildfires in the county of 5,300 square miles.

Rogers said Saturday that the official tally of three homes and 33 other structures lost was preliminary. He says it will take weeks for a full count, but he knows "we are going to have quite a few."

Rogers says the fires are burning only one or a handful of homes at a time, not entire neighborhoods.

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10 a.m.

A second of the four firefighters injured in a wildfire on Wednesday has been transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the Northwest's major burn center. Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Saturday that the firefighter was transferred on Friday night and is listed in satisfactory condition.

She did not release any details about the firefighter's identity or the extent of the injuries.

Three firefighters were killed and four injured when flames overtook them Wednesday while they were battling the Okanogan Complex of wildfires in north-central Washington. Another firefighter remains in critical condition at Harborview with burns over 60 percent of his body.

Officials have said the injured firefighters were trying to escape the flames on foot.

The firefighter who was newly admitted to Harborview is a man and an employee of the state Department of Natural Resources, agency spokesman Bob Redling said. He was initially treated and released from a hospital in Okanogan, and then asked to go to Harborview, Redling said.

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9 a.m.

A series of wildfires in north-central Washington that left three firefighters dead grew by more than 100 square miles, but officials hope easing winds forecast for Saturday will allow them to gain the upper hand.

The Okanogan Complex of wildfires was measured at 355 square miles Saturday, about 100 miles larger than the day before, after making some big runs Friday, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said.

Thousands of people remained under evacuation orders as strong winds drove flames across parched ground. Resources were so strained that Saturday, fire officials planned to provide basic fire training to about 200 volunteers who have machinery like backhoes and bulldozers so they can use them to help dig fire lines.

The overall situation was too chaotic to even track how many homes had burned — though officials hoped to make progress on that front Saturday.

"We can say we know structures have been lost, but we have no count," Isaacson said.

Three firefighters — Tom Zbyszewski, Richard Wheeler and Andrew Zajac — died Wednesday when flames consumed their crashed vehicle as they tried to escape this fire. Four others were injured in the canyon, one critically.