Washington wildfires grow, prompt evacuations, burn homes

Strong winds on Monday led to fire growth in central and eastern Washington that prompted new mandatory evacuations and burned homes, fire officials said.

A fire northwest of Spokane that started Sunday near the town of Ford caused residents to scramble to leave their homes on Monday, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Authorities called for Ford residents and those in nearby communities to immediately evacuate as the Ford Corkscrew Fire threatened hundreds of buildings.

Hannah Roach, 18, was with her six other family members as well as pets, including geckos, lizards, dogs and birds packed into their pickup truck, as they stopped for groceries in Loon Lake. Behind her, smoke plumes and glowing orange flames crept over the hillside near where her family lived.

"We didn’t actually hear about the fire. We saw it first," Roach said. "We decided to get ahead of it."

The fire has damaged or destroyed 20 buildings — including eight homes — and has burned through more than 20 square miles (52 square kilometers), officials said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Ford Corkscrew fire, officials said.

The fire’s cause is under investigation.

The wind caused extreme weather that also prompted mandatory evacuations Monday on a wildfire that started Aug. 3 northwest of Naches in central Washington, officials said.

The Schneider Springs Fire grew has burned more than 44 square miles (114 square kilometers) since the lightning-ignited blaze started.

New "go now" evacuations were in place along part of State Route 410, KIMA-TV reported.

When the evacuation orders were issued, fire crews went into structure protection mode, engaging pumps and sprinkler systems, according to a Tuesday morning update from the fire incident team.

Windy, hazy conditions were expected to continue Tuesday in the Naches area while rain, thunderstorms and wind were expected in Spokane, according to the National Weather Service.

The fires were among nearly 100 major wildfires burning across more than a dozen Western states that have seen historic drought and weeks of high temperatures. Climate change has made the U.S. West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.

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