Firefighters Tested by Washington Wildland Fires

As flames scorch more than 920 square miles across eastern and central Washington, firefighters continue to brave the front lines of treacherous wildfires, reports

“Crews rushed across the airstrip to homes next to the base to fight the fire … wind-whipped flaming debris and embers filled the air,” officials behind the Reach Complex, Wolverine, and Black Canyon fires wrote when a firestorm swept around all sides of the Chelan airport. 

“Thanks to their efforts, many homes were saved from certain destruction. And the people who fought those flames would never consider themselves heroes, it’s just what they do.”

The fast action in Chelan County’s August 14 blaze is one of dozens of incidents firefighters and crews faced in the last week. Some firefighters have reportedly put in more than 100 hours over the course of those brutal seven days. 

Now, the largest fires burn in the Okanogan Complex, which has surpassed last year’s Carlton Complex blazes. 

The Okanogan Complex was measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, slightly more than the Carlton fires, that also burned in Okanogan County.

More resources were moved to Okanogan on Monday morning, and officials are still trying to determine how many homes and other structures have been burned by the complex. 

Three firefighters were killed fighting near Twisp, a town in Okanogan, on Wednesday. Four others were injured.

Blazes have “burned a big hole in our state’s heart,” Gov. Jay Inslee lamented Thursday, describing the outbreak as an “unprecedented cataclysm.”

“These are three big heroes protecting small towns,” the governor said, urging residents to “thank a firefighter.”

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