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.
The damage caused by wildfires can be devastating, gutting structures and driving out people who live and work nearby. And researchers say the smoke from the annually recurring blazes also delivers economic damage to areas that were never touched by the flames. Continue Reading Study: Economic Effects Of Wildfire Smoke Linger Long After Flames Subside
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved disaster relief requests for nine eastern Washington counties and two Native tribes impacted by summer wildfires. That includes aid for the Whitman County towns of Malden and Pine City, which burned during a Labor Day wildfire that was fanned by high winds. Continue Reading President Biden Approves Federal Aid For Eastern Washington Fires Following Months Of Requests
Washington’s U.S. senators say they’ve asked President Joe Biden to approve a major disaster declaration for eastern Washington towns that were burned by wildfires last fall. Those include the Whitman County town of Malden, which lost about 80% of its homes. Continue Reading Lawmakers Ask President Biden To Act On Washington Wildfire Relief After Trump Refused