OLYMPIA, Washington — Firefighters battled wildfires across the West yesterday, including a massive out-of-control blaze that has destroyed at least 60 homes and burned more than 28,000 acres between two national forests in Washington state.
Another 400 homes were evacuated in the rolling hills between the northwest Washington towns of Cle Elum and Ellensburg, at the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains, prompting Governor Christine Gregoire to declare a state of emergency in two counties.
The massive Taylor Bridge Fire was among more than a dozen wildfires burning across the West, which is wilting under a heat wave that has sent temperatures into the triple digits. Together, the fires have burned some 500,000 acres across Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California.
Across the nation, wildfires have consumed roughly six million acres (2.4 million hectares) this year, above the 10-year average of 4.9 million acres, according to figures from the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho.
Authorities said the Washington state fire was started on Monday afternoon by workers at a construction site east of Cle Elum, about 75 miles southeast of Seattle.
“We don’t know what the actual cause was. We have no indication it was intentional,” said Nancy Jones, a spokeswoman for a state emergency response team.
With strong winds and no rain in the area for three weeks, more damage is likely, said Bryan Flint, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources.
Winds are pushing the fire east toward an area of mostly farmland, although more homes are in its path, Jones said. The fire is burning just four miles northwest of Ellensburg and 10 miles south of the Wenatchee National Forest. South of the fire is the Snoqualmie National Forest. (Reuters)