OLYMPIA — Wildfires have torched at least 626,982 acres in Washington as of Friday morning, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.
“And these are just the active fires, not the ones that have already been contained and where recovery continues,” Inslee said in a news conference.
As of Friday, there are 14 large active fires in the state, he said.
Meanwhile, approximately 181 homes across Washington have been lost in the fires, with 377 structures overall destroyed, according to a spokesperson for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Those stark numbers — which also include the death this week of a child — outline how quickly a relatively quiet fire season exploded over the past week, with blazes on both sides of the Cascade Mountains.
The fires in just the past five days are the most in state history, Inslee said, other than 2015’s historic fire season. That year, more than 1.1 million acres burned — and three firefighters died.
Inslee also said state officials are working to find places for Oregonians who have to evacuate there.
“We are now looking for options for them in Washington,” said the governor, to find housing or hotels if they need them.
As firefighting efforts move into the weekend, the Washington National Guard’s wildfire-fighting resources are “stretched a little thin” because some helicopters are deployed overseas, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty said in the news conference.
But Daugherty said the National Guard can still deploy two additional Black Hawk helicopters, on top of the two that have been dumping water this week on fires. The National Guard also has seven firefighting hand crews it can still deploy, he said.
“In my conversations with our partners in DNR, they’re feeling pretty confident that we’ve got the forces rallied that will see us successfully through this weekend,” said Daugherty.
Meanwhile, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste sought to dispel rumors that fires were being set by coordinated individuals. Rumors that right-wing or left-wing radicals are starting blazes have circulated on Facebook and Twitter.
“We are unaware of any evidence of coordinated activities to set fires,” said Batiste.
While troopers have arrested two people in Pierce County for starting fires, Batiste said, there is no evidence that they were connected events or tied into “any larger scheme, to our knowledge.”
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