Pushed by howling, erratic winds, a massive wildfire in north-central Washington was growing rapidly and burning in new directions Saturday.
Road closures and evacuations were changing rapidly, as hot weather and winds with gusts up to 30 mph were pushing the fire over ridge tops and toward a cluster of small towns northeast of Seattle.
“This is a very active and fluid situation,” fire spokesman Chuck Turey said.
As of Saturday morning, the lightning-caused fire had scorched 336 square miles in the scenic Methow Valley. The fire was measured at 260 square miles on Friday.
People living between Carlton and Pateros have been told to leave their homes.
Officials said there are no reports of serious injuries and only one more structure was destroyed overnight by the lightning-caused wildfire.
Minor burns and bruises had been reported, but Turey called that “a pretty amazing safety record.”
Airplanes and helicopters were dropping water and fire retardant on all parts of the fire, with no one area more of a concern than another, Turey said.
“We’re seeing some wind shifts so that the fire is going to be pushed in some directions it hasn’t been pushed to date,” he said, adding that the good news is that in some places the wind is pushing the first back on itself.
The fire has calmed down near Pateros, where it destroyed about 100 homes Thursday and Friday, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.
“It’s just starting to run out of places to burn,” he said.
The fire has picked up on its north side closer to Winthrop, but winds have been erratic and were blowing the very active fire in different directions.
“The wind is just howling up there,” Rogers said.
The active fire was burning in an area that is more sparsely populated, with homes scattered throughout the woods and along the highway.
“There’s people who live all around up there,” he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, gusting winds and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.
Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state’s Military Department, said 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000 more in Yakima could receive additional fire training. Active duty military could be called in as well, Inslee said.