Hundreds of homes threatened by US wildfire

2014-07-18 05:00
Residents had just minutes to evacuate in front of the fast moving fire. (Kurt Wilson, AP/Missoulian)

Residents had just minutes to evacuate in front of the fast moving fire. (Kurt Wilson, AP/Missoulian)

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Spokane - A wind-fuelled wildfire chased people from nearly 900 homes in Washington state as it burned through a landscape reminiscent of the Alps.

There was zero containment on Wednesday, and more heat and winds gusting up to 48km/h were forecast for Thursday.

The fire's smoke plume, visible for miles, rose 7 620m.

"There's a huge cloud of smoke above us," Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who lives just outside of Leavenworth, said Thursday morning. "The winds started to pick up a little. It's just like snowfall here with the ash coming down."

Residents of 860 homes have been told they should leave immediately, fire spokesperson Rick Acosta said late on Wednesday.

Authorities said on Thursday morning that the Chiwaukum Creek Fire has grown to nearly 20km2. It was first detected on Tuesday.

Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor's offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows state officials to call up the National Guard.

Several other fires have blackened parts of Oregon, while blazes encouraged by dry conditions raged elsewhere in the West

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