Washington firefighters holding their own against giant Okanogan wildfire despite high winds.



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A top firefighting officials says it's unknown how many structures were lost in the Okanogan Complex Fire in Washington state. Nationwide, fires have burned more than 11,000 square miles this year. (Aug. 26)

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CHELAN, Washington — Firefighters were holding their own Thursday against the largest wildfire on record in Washington state, even as rising temperatures and increased winds stoked the flames.

The National Weather Service had issued a red-flag warning earlier in the day for the fires near Okanogan, saying weather conditions had the potential to spread the flames.

"All the lines are holding," Bernie Pineda, spokesman for the 450-square-mile fire, said Thursday afternoon.

He said winds were actually pushing portions of the giant fire back on itself.

The blazes killed three firefighters last week and have burned at least 40 homes and 40 outbuildings.

Heavy smoke that had grounded aircraft lifted a bit and helicopters were able to drop water on the flames, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said.

More than 1,150 square miles of Washington have burned, nearly the size of Rhode Island, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

Gov. Jay Inslee visited firefighters on the lines.

"They know they're in danger and this danger is persistent," Inslee said.

Inslee said the fires were more spread out across the state than last year.

"This is not just a local fire, it's a statewide slow-motion disaster," he said.

The governor met with about 20 members of the National Guard fighting a fire near Lake Chelan. They worked to protect about a half-dozen homes.

"Trying to predict what the fire is going to do is one of the hardest things," guardsmen Casey Stockwell said.

Homeowner Jake Kneisley, 41, leaned against a car down a hill from his two-story home. Kneisley said he was up all night watching the fire near his home.

"I feel incredibly lucky these people are here for us," Kneisley said as firefighters worked nearby.

Elsewhere in the West, people in west-central Idaho near Riggins have been told to evacuate due to a wildfire that expanded to 40 square miles. Nearly 600 firefighters were working to protect structures along U.S. Highway 95 and the Salmon River.

In Oregon, a large wildfire near John Day had increased in size, and firefighters were concerned about explosive growth. The fire has burned 134 square miles.


Geranios reported from Spokane, Washington. Associated Press photographer Ted Warren contributed from Omak, Washington.

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