Wildfire in Washington burns several homes, small town evacuated

A small town in the state of Washington was evacuated due to a fast-moving fire that burned a half-dozen homes, as crews in California made progress against the state’s deadliest and largest wildfire of the year.

In Washington, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook early on Thursday afternoon that residents of Lind needed to flee due to the encroaching flames.

“At this time all residents of the town of Lind need to evacuate immediately,” the sheriff’s office said in the post.

Later Thursday, Sheriff Dale Wagner said six homes had burned as well as eight other structures. With the help of state and local resources, Wagner said the fire was starting to calm down and by evening all evacuation orders had been lifted.

Sheriff’s deputies search a scorched residence following the McKinney Fire in Klamath National Forest, California, their team did not find any fire victims at the property [Noah Berger/AP]

“They will be fighting it through the night to make sure it doesn’t flare up any more or get worse,” he said, adding that firefighters were dealing with high heat and windy conditions.

He said one firefighter suffered smoke inhalation and was flown to Spokane for treatment.

The evacuation comes as California and much of the rest of the western region of the United States is in a drought and wildfire danger is high, with the historically worst of the fire season still to come. Fires are burning throughout the region and forecasters have also warned that spiking temperatures and plunging humidity levels could create conditions for further wildfire growth.

Scientists have said climate change has made the West warmer and drier during the last 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. California has seen its largest, most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the last five years.

Lind is a community of about 500 people approximately 121km (75 miles) southwest of Spokane. Homes, infrastructure and crops were threatened. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Meanwhile, in California, fire crews on Friday morning were working amid thunderstorms that brought light precipitation along with the possibility of dry lightning that could spark new blazes.

A separate set of firefighters in the area have been put on standby to jump on any new fires, according to Mike Lindbery, a spokesperson for the McKinney Fire in California’s Siskiyou County near the Oregon border.

The Smokey Fire, which ignited Thursday, was one such new fire. Crews have kept it to 13.76 hectares (34 acres) and hope to have it contained within the next day or two, Lindbery said.

Flames burn inside a tree along Highway 96 in Klamath National Forest, California [Noah Berger/AP]

After five days of no containment, the McKinney Fire remained 10 percent surrounded on Friday. Bulldozers and hand crews were making progress carving firebreaks around much of the rest of the blaze, fire officials said.

At the fire’s southeastern corner, evacuation orders for sections of Yreka, home to about 7,800 people, were downgraded to warnings, allowing residents to return home but with a caution that the situation remained dangerous.

About 1,300 people remained under evacuation orders, officials said at a community meeting Wednesday evening.

The fire did not advance much at midweek, following several days of brief but heavy rain from thunderstorms that provided cloudy, damp weather. But as the clouds clear and humidity levels drop in the coming days, the fire could roar again, authorities warned.

“This is a sleeping giant right now,” said Darryl Laws, a unified incident commander on the blaze.

Weekend temperatures could sore as the region dries out again, said meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis with the National Weather Service office in Medford, Oregon.

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