Seattle: Three firefighters in Washington state were killed and four injured while battling a wildfire threatening the north-central town of Twisp, Governor Jay Inslee said on Wednesday, as more than a dozen major blazes burned across Western U.S. states.
The deaths came as a fast-moving wildfire forced authorities late on Wednesday to order the evacuations of Twisp and Winthrop, towns in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, Okanogan County Emergency Management said on Facebook.
"I was just told that three firefighters died while battling the Twisp fire and four were injured," Inslee said in a statement.
Fires have blackened more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) across the arid Western region, prompting fire managers to call in help from the U.S. Army and abroad to reinforce civilian crews.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown toured the fire area in her state on Wednesday and joined Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter in calling up state National Guard troops backed by military aircraft to help combat blazes in their respective states.
Based on "extreme fire danger," Washington state`s Department of Natural Resources said on Wednesday it was moving to shut down all industrial forest activities, including timber harvest operations and road construction, across almost all of its eastern forested areas, which the agency believes to be the first such action in more than 20 years.
Inslee said he requested a federal emergency declaration, which would free up resources to help cover firefighting costs. His office said the current fires in Washington state had destroyed more than 50 homes and 60 other structures.
This week, the national year-to-date tally of area burned passed 7 million acres (2.9 million hectares). That figure had not been reached so early in the year for two decades.
In Washington state, about 200 people were forced from their residences as a cluster of fires bore down late on Tuesday on the town of Conconully, said Lorraine Utt at the county`s emergency operations center.
More than 1,400 other people were placed under evacuation orders across the county, Utt added, but most of them had since been allowed to return to their homes.
To the south, firefighters by Wednesday managed to dig containment lines around about half of a wildfire burning on the outskirts of Chelan, Washington, a resort town, fire information officer Lorena Wisehart said.
In central Oregon, another cluster of wildfires near the rura
In the mountains of north-central Idaho, a group of blazes that grew to 100 square miles (260 square km) forced evacuations on Tuesday from dozens of homes near the small town of Weippe.
Fires burning in and around the Nez Perce Indian Reservation has consumed 50 homes and 80 outbuildings near the logging town of Kamiah, Idaho, since it was sparked by lightning last week.
An elderly woman in the area was killed when she fell and struck her head while trying to secure her backyard chickens before fleeing the fire with her husband, authorities said.
On Wednesday, flames were advancing on Kamiah from three sides as another part of the complex was reaching north toward Weippe, said federal fire information officer Dixie Dies.
"This fire is amoebic. It`s spreading everywhere," Dies said.
In California, about 2,500 people were forced to flee Christian camps east of Fresno at Hume Lake on Tuesday as the so-called Rough Fire crossed Highway 180, said Anne Janik, a fire information official.