Washington state wildfires destroy 1 home and threaten dozens of others amid hot, dry weather



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WALLA WALLA, Washington — Several wildfires lit up Washington state on Tuesday, destroying at least one home and threatening dozens of others.

In eastern Washington, a brush fire burned at least one property and forced a handful of homes in a rural neighborhood to evacuate, said Patty Courson, a spokeswoman with the Walla Walla County Emergency Management. The blaze briefly forced residents to flee about 30 homes Monday.

Winds and hot, dry conditions could spread the flames and threaten more buildings, fire officials said. Low snowpack levels, record warm temperatures and very dry conditions have helped fuel blazes throughout drought-stricken Washington state.

Authorities are investigating what caused the fire to ignite after noon Monday and scorch nearly 4 square miles east of Walla Walla near Blue Creek and Klicker Mountain.

"It's a very dynamic fire, so it's zero percent contained. They haven't been able to get out in front of it," Courson said.

About 500 firefighters are tackling the blaze Tuesday, said Renae Crippen with the Blue Mountain Interagency Fire Center in La Grande, Oregon.

No injuries have been reported, even after a helicopter pilot who had been dumping water on the flames walked away from a crash-landing Monday. He was checked out and refused further treatment, Courson said.

Federal investigators will determine what caused a mechanical failure on board, she said.

In central Washington, another brush fire near the town of George also threatened 50 homes and led to brief evacuations Monday.

It temporarily closed part of Interstate 90, a major east-west artery, in both directions because of heavy smoke.

A trailer full of hay had burned on the road next to the interstate, leading the fire to break out Sunday night, the Grant County sheriff's office said. It reignited Monday afternoon, but no injuries were reported.

Yet another brush fire about 25 miles northeast of Seattle briefly closed U.S. Highway 2 in both directions near Monroe late Monday afternoon. It is burning just west of State Route 9.

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