State of emergency declared as fires threaten homes

by MICHAEL KONOPASEK / KING 5 News, July 16, 2014 at 6:43 AM

A state of emergency has been declared in 20 Eastern Washington counties as new and existing wildfires threaten several hundred homes, as well as businesses, infrastructure and natural resources.

The declaration allows officials to get help from the Washington National Guard and the State Guard if needed. It also directs state agencies to help local governments in responding to wildfires.

As of early Wednesday morning, a 40 percent perimeter was contained at the state’s largest wildfire, Mills Canyon, near Entiat. The fire is holding steady at about 35 square miles.

Conditions could be an issue for firefighters Wednesday, according to meteorologists. Highs in the 100s are anticipated. Added to windy conditions, that could challenge firefighters and homeowners.

State officials are worried extreme fire weather conditions and the lack of firefighting resources in the Northwest could hamper future firefighting efforts in the state.

Six other fires were sparked Tuesday. New wildfires, some started by lightning, are keeping crews busy in central Washington. A brush fire temporarily closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 90 Tuesday night in the central part of the state.

The proclamation of emergency covers Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima counties.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen signed the emergency proclamation late Tuesday.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources has put a burn ban in place for all state lands that is projected to last until September 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.