Wind-whipped wildfires roared through the state of Washington on Tuesday, virtually wiping out an entire small town and consuming more than 330,000 acres of brush and timber, authorities said.
Among nine significant fires across the state, at least three between Colfax and Malden, in Whitman County, had touched off Monday, officials said. Fueled by high winds and an abundance of dry brush, at least two were still going strong Tuesday, they said.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, state public lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said 58 fires across the state were started Monday. “We were able to put most of them out,” she said.
At the same event, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “An estimated 330,000 acres of our state burned just in 24 hours. More acres burned yesterday than in 12 of the last entire fire seasons in the state of Washington.”
“We think all of these are human-caused in some dimension,” he said.
National Guard troops were assisting firefighters, Franz said. Hot weather, “hurricane-force winds” and dry brush worked against them, she said.
“The winds and visibility grounded our planes and helicopters,” she said.
The two largest blazes are the 174,000-acre Pearl Hill Fire, in Douglas County, and the 163,000-acre Cold Springs Fire near Omak, said state Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Thomas Kyle-Milward.
There was no level of containment for either fire, he said, but nightfall brought some hope in the battle against the Cold Springs Fire. “Air efforts have stopped the fire from spreading much further,” Kyle-Milward said.
Firefighters had no containment against the Babbs-Malden Fire, in and around the town of Malden, which had charred 8,943 acres by evening, he said.
The blaze destroyed 80 percent of Malden, wiping out its post office, its fire department, City Hall and the adjoining library, sheriff’s officials said. Half the buildings of neighboring Pine City were also destroyed by the Malden Fire, a state official said.
“It looks like a bomb has gone off,” Inslee said.
“The scale of this disaster really can’t be expressed in words,” Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said in a statement.
No deaths have been reported.
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The Manning Fire in the same region, Whitman County, has consumed 3,100 acres and was 25 percent contained Tuesday night, Kyle-Milward said.
The Colfax Fire, which burned 5 acres, was 100 percent contained by late Tuesday morning, regional fire spokeswoman Sydney McBride said.