OLYMPIA, Wash.-- Authorities declared a state of emergency late Tuesday night as multiple wildfires continued to burn, threatening homes and other structures in Eastern Washington. Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen signed the proclamation covering 20 Eastern Washington counties, including Spokane County.
Firefighters were battling multiple fires at the time, including six that started Tuesday during a thunderstorm. Authorities said more than 500 homes were threatened, forcing numerous evacuations. Additionally, extreme fire weather conditions and a lack of resources in the Pacific Northwest put future firefighting efforts at risk according to state leaders.
More than 1,000 firefighters were on the fire lines in Chelan County where the state’s largest fire continued to burn. The Mills Canyon fire burned more than 22,500 acres in early July and was 40% contained on Tuesday. Washington State Patrol also mobilized local fire resources for the Stokes Fire in Okanogan County. Several other new fires were also threatening homes and infrastructure according to authorities.
The proclamation of emergency provided resources form the Washington National Guard and State Guard, directing the agencies to do “everything reasonably possible,” to help the local governments in affected areas. The state of emergency covered Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima counties.
Fire evacuation levels (Source: Chelan County Fire Dist. 1)
Level 1 evacuations are an alert. Residents should be aware of the danger that exists, and monitor local media outlets for information. Residents with special needs, or those with pets or livestock, should take note and make preparations for relocating family members, pets, and livestock.
Level 2 evacuations indicate there is a significant risk to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the area, or, be ready to leave at a moments notice.
Level 3 means danger is currently affecting your area or is imminent, and you should leave immediately.
The National Weather Service posted a red flag warning and fire weather watches for much of eastern Washington extending from Wednesday afternoon into Friday.