Fires in US state of Washington largest in its history

AFP , Monday 24 Aug 2015

A group of wildfires blazing in the western US state of Washington have become the largest in the state's history, officials said Monday.

The so-called Okanogan complex of wildfires in the north-central part of the state has already surpassed last year's record-breaking Carlton fires, US Forest Service fire spokesman Mike Ferris told AFP.

The Okanogan fire had grown to more than 250,000 acres (104,000 hectares) Monday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), which said the blaze was only 10 percent contained.

Three firefighters were killed battling a portion of the Okanogan fire last week and 1,250 people are currently helping quell the blaze.

Statewide, 16 large wildfires have ravaged 600,000 acres, destroyed 200 homes and are threatening another 12,000 residences, according to a statement from Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

That combined damage makes the current fires "certainly the most severe in terms of timing of multiple large fires simultaneously," Jaime Smith, the governor's spokeswoman, told AFP Monday.

President Barack Obama has approved Inslee's request for a federal declaration of emergency, which releases federal funds to help the state pay for the cost of fighting the blazes.

The Okanogan fire alone has already cost $8.5 million to date, the NIFC said Monday.

Seven hundred members of the Washington National Guard were added to the state-wide firefighting effort Sunday and helicopters from surrounding states were brought in to help.

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