Emergency declared in 20 counties due to multiple wildfires, extreme fire conditions
OLYMPIA -- A state of emergency was declared late Tuesday, July 14, in 20 Eastern Washington counties in response to multiple wildfires threatening homes, businesses, public infrastructure, and natural resources in many parts of the state as fire crews face continued severe fire weather conditions.
The proclamation was signed at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, acting for Gov. Jay Inslee, who is on state business in Washington, D.C.
Firefighters are battling multiple fires in eastern Washington, including six that started on Tuesday. The fires are threatening more than 500 homes, resulting in numerous evacuations, and may result in additional damage to other homes, infrastructure, natural resources, and businesses.
In addition, extreme fire weather conditions and a lack of available firefighting resources in the Pacific Northwest could hamper future firefighting efforts in the state.
The proclamation provides for the use the Washington National Guard and the State Guard in the event its resources are needed to protect public health, safety, and welfare; directs state agencies to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected local governments in responding and recovering from the fires; and directs staff at the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate state support activities.
The proclamation of emergency covers Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima counties.
The state's largest fire is the Mills Canyon fire in Chelan County. It has burned more than 22,500 acres, and is being fought by 1,042 firefighters and support personnel. The Washington State Patrol has mobilized local fire resources for the Mills Canyon Fire, and just Tuesday evening
for the Stokes Fire near Twisp in Okanogan County. Several of the new fires threaten homes and other infrastructure.
The National Weather Service posted red flag warnings and fire weather watches for hazardous fire weather conditions (high temperatures, low humidity, high winds) for much of eastern Washington from Wednesday afternoon through Friday.
The Department of Natural Resources has banned outdoor fires on state-protected lands due to extreme conditions. Other local and federal agencies have instituted burn bans on lands under their jurisdiction.