Fire-battered US West gets help from other nations

2015-08-24 21:52
Firefighter Dallas Barron searches for hotspots left from a wildfire in Chelan. (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Firefighter Dallas Barron searches for hotspots left from a wildfire in Chelan. (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Okanogan - Firefighters from as far as Australia and New Zealand have arrived in the West as massive wildfires raging in Washington state and elsewhere in the region taxed resources and led officials to put out a wide call for help.

In Washington, a series of fires raging in the north-central part of the state that earlier killed three firefighters has now grown to become the largest in state history, fire spokesperson Rick Isaacson said Monday.

The lightning-caused Okanogan Complex of fires were measured overnight at just over 1 035km² . That's slightly more than last year's Carlton Complex blazes, which also were sparked by lightning and burned in Okanogan County.

"I'd like to set some different records," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said on Monday.

Last year's fires were grouped closer together and destroyed about 300 homes, Rogers said. This year, wildfires are burning across the large county and officials have no idea how many homes have burned.

The Okanogan Complex of fires grew by more than 67km² on Sunday and is expected to spread even more in coming days.

Isaacson did not have a containment estimate, but there is very little containment on the wildfire.

Isaacson called the record unfortunate and said the fire could burn until rain and snow season arrives.

"It's only August 24th," Isaacson said. "In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November."

Rogers noted that many of the fires are burning in heavily timbered areas on steep terrain.

"There's no way to fight them," Rogers said.

About 1 250 people are battling the Okanogan Complex, Isaacson said. Last week, three firefighters were killed and four injured when they were overtaken while trying to escape the flame.

About 70 fire managers from Australia and New Zealand arrived in Boise, Idaho, and were scheduled to receive protective gear on Monday before heading out to fight fires burning in the West.

In Washington, resources were so strained that officials earlier took the unprecedented step of seeking volunteers to help fight the flames. Fire officials over the weekend began providing basic fire training to volunteers who have machinery like backhoes and bulldozers so they can help dig fire lines.

Sixteen large wildfires are burning across central and eastern Washington, covering more than 2 300km². More than 200 homes have been destroyed, and more than 12 000 homes and thousands of other structures remain threatened.

Elsewhere, crews increased containment of a wildfire burning through timber near a popular Southern California ski resort, though hundreds of mountain homes remained threatened early on Monday.

Several water and retardant-dropping aircraft were making runs over the blaze near Snow Summit resort in Big Bear Lake, about 160km east of Los Angeles.

Firefighters working through the night held the blaze to about 40ha.  It was 50% contained.

Read more on:    us  |  weather

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.