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'Funnel of fire' destroys homes in Washington

PATEROS, Wash. — A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley.

Friday's dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County city of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.

A wall of fire wiped out a block of houses on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

"It was just a funnel of fire," Brownlee said. "All you could do was watch her go."

Firefighters poured water on the remnants of homes Friday, raising clouds of smoke, steam and dust. Two water towers perched above town were singed black. Ash fell like snowflakes.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather and gusting winds and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters assisting.

Officials said 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000 more in Yakima could receive additional fire training. Active duty military could be called in as well, Inslee said.

"This, unfortunately, is not going to be a one-day or one-week event," he said.

Flames creep down a hillside in Pateros, Wash., on Friday. Most of Pateros’ 650 residents left before the fire reached the city.

Associated Press

Flames creep down a hillside in Pateros, Wash., on Friday. Most of Pateros’ 650 residents left before the fire reached the city.

'Funnel of fire' destroys homes in Washington 07/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2014 10:42pm]
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