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THE deaths of three firefighters near Twisp this week underscore the perils of a state afire.

By Friday afternoon, more than a dozen fires had consumed about 450,000 acres and high winds threatened to fan the flames. A packing house, livestock, a winery, other businesses and homes are gone — and people across North Central Washington have been ordered to evacuate.

Nevertheless, many of the colleagues of Tom Zbyszewski, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Richard Wheeler, 31, are still fighting. More than 4,000 men and women continue to attack the blazes and are joined by the Washington National Guard and active-duty soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Firefighters from other states and nations are arriving to pitch in.

Their sacrifices and bravery are awe-inspiring and earn the gratitude of people far beyond the fire zones.

On Friday, President Obama signed a federal emergency declaration that will send more federal resources to supplement local and state resources wearing thin.

Though the extent of these fires is daunting, wildfires are a perennial threat that require extensive planning. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has been at the forefront of bipartisan efforts to change and improve the way wildfires are fought and contained since the deadly Thirtymile fire in the same area in 2001. She released a white paper on the subject in June.

“We need to think about community wildifire-protection plans that help communities in advance steel themselves against fires or lessen the risk that certain areas are going to be more volatile or vulnerable,” Cantwell said by phone from Spokane Friday.

Next Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a field hearing in Seattle before Congress takes up the Wildland Fire Management Act of 2015. Cantwell is the committee’s ranking Democratic member.

The wildfires — the deaths, injuries and losses — should provide strong impetus for action to minimize wildfires and their consequences in the future.