Wildfires in Washington state threaten homes, prompt evacuations

By Kevin Murphy

By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters) - Two lightning-sparked wildfires roared largely unchecked for a third day on Sunday in north-central Washington state, threatening more than two dozen homes and prompting the evacuation of about 300 dwellings, officials said.

The flames have charred nearly 20,000 acres (80 square km) since erupting on Friday in the grass- and brush-covered hills of Douglas County, authorities said. One of the two fires grew out of four separate blazes that later merged into one.

No injuries have been reported, but 29 homes and 30 other buildings were listed as immediately threatened, said Robin DeMario, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center that monitors wildfires in the region.

As of Sunday, the two blazes were still raging out of control, with firefighters having managed to carve containment lines around 10 percent of the flames, said Darren Wright, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.

Most of the evacuations ordered were for residences standing in the potential path of advancing flames, he said. So far, no structures have been reported lost.

Nearly 160 firefighters were working in ground crews trying to enclose the blazes, assisted by water-dropping helicopters, DeMario said.

The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter for evacuees at a high school in the town of Ephrata, south of the fire zone.

DeMario said the Douglas County blazes are among several major wildfires burning in Washington state, with the next largest being a 5,000-acre (20.23-square-km) fire near the Canadian border.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh)