Hundreds of homes threatened by eastern Washington wildfire

AP

A wind-fueled wildfire chased people from nearly 900 homes in Washington state as it burned through a landscape reminiscent of the Alps.

There was zero containment Wednesday, and more heat and winds gusting up to 30 mph (48 kph) were forecast for Thursday.

The fire’s smoke plume, visible for miles, rose 25,000 feet (7,620 meters).

“There’s a huge cloud of smoke above us,” Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who lives just outside of Leavenworth, said Thursday morning. “The winds started to pick up a little. It’s just like snowfall here with the ash coming down.”

Residents of 860 homes have been told they should leave immediately, fire spokesman Rick Acosta said late Wednesday.

Authorities said Thursday morning that the Chiwaukum Creek Fire has grown to more than 10 sq. miles (25 sq. km). It was first detected Tuesday.

“The weather and winds are not in our favor,” said fire spokeswoman Mary Bean.

She said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor’s offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows state officials to call up the National Guard.

Several other fires have blackened parts of Oregon, while blazes encouraged by dry conditions raged elsewhere in the West