Okanogan County Fire Grows; Inslee Declares Emergency Exactly 5 Years After Twisp Firefighters Killed
-Red Cross Contact: 509-670-5331
BY COURTNEY FLATT & SCOTT LEADINGHAM
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide emergency Wednesday to help with fires burning on the Olympic Peninsula and in central and eastern Washington.
A fire in Okanogan County is quickly burning through grass, sagebrush and timber, forcing evacuations. What’s been dubbed the Palmer Fire is burning southwest of Oroville, near Washburn Lake.
Winds pushed the fire in all directions Tuesday afternoon. As of Wednesday morning, it had burned around 5,000 acres and is threatening at least 86 homes. As the fast-burning fire grows, hot and dry conditions are stretching firefighting resources.
— NWS Spokane (@NWSSpokane) August 19, 2020
The Red Cross is offering shelter to anyone who has had to evacuate. Farm animals can be taken to the Tonasket Rodeo grounds. Anyone needing Red Cross assistance can call 509-670-5331.
A local group on Facebook, Okanogan Highlands Fire Watch, is also coordinating information and resources for affected residents.
The governor’s emergency declaration will allow the Washington National Guard to help fight fires across the state.
The cause of the Palmer Fire is still under investigation. A separate blaze across the border in nearby Penticton, British Columbia, the Christie Mountain Fire, was also putting up large plumes of smoke Tuesday and Wednesday.
Firefighters are working to save property and people on the fifth anniversary of the Twisp River Fire, part of the larger Okanogan County Complex. On Aug. 19, 2015, Richard Wheeler, Andrew Zajac, and Tom Zbyszewski died as they began fighting the flames near Twisp. A fourth member of the crew, Daniel Lyon, Jr., was severely burned.
“Wildfires are threatening the safety and livelihoods of Washingtonians all across the state,” Inslee said in a statement Wednesday. “And the COVID-19 pandemic has put additional strain on our resources, as some of our usual support is further limited due to international movement restrictions.”
Northwest fire managers say crews are stretched thin. Extreme temperatures combined with many more people heading outside make the situation even more complicated.
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Extremely hot and dry conditions have caused some land managers to close more recreation areas than normal. Continue Reading Extreme Fire Danger Forces Managers To Close Public Lands In WA, OR
This year in north-central Washington has echoes of 2015, when the complex of fires across Okanogan County burned tens of thousands of acres on the reservation, closer to Omak, and shut down Highway 155 across the reservation for long stretches. What was true then is very possible now: The fires took out a lot of timber that the tribes harvest and use for revenue. Continue Reading Echoes Of 2015 As Fires Burn Across Okanogan County, Force Evacuations In Nespelem