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Washington Evacuees Have Dealt With Fires Before, But 'Not Like This'

The Mills Canyon fire started near Entiat, Washington, north of Wenatchee.
The Mills Canyon fire started near Entiat, Washington, north of Wenatchee.

A blaze in Okanogan County, Washington, that Governor Jay Inslee called a “firestorm” has destroyed around 100 homes. Now, Inslee says 1,000 National Guard troops will take a crash-course in wildfire fighting so they can be deployed to central Washington fires.

The Mills Canyon fire started near Entiat, Washington, north of Wenatchee.
Credit InciWeb
File photo of a portion of the Mills Canyon Complex fire in Central Washington

"We're lucky because they are on duty and in a place they can be trained," Inslee said. "So we are going to bring trainers from the Department of Natural Resources to train them as rapidly as possible to be available -- not just now, but for the rest of the summer."

One hundred other guardsmen who are already certified in firefighting are awaiting assignments to relieve tired fire crews. In past fire seasons, National Guard ground troops were sent out in a support capacity to the professional firefighters on the front lines.

Separately, the Washington National Guard has deployed six helicopters with water buckets to assist the fire fight.

Governor Inslee flew to Wenatchee Friday afternoon to see the response to several massive wildfires first hand. Fires in the so-called Carlton Complex have been scaling ridge lines and in some places, jumping theOkanoganRiver. Parts of theMethowValley and the entire town ofPaterosare under evacuation orders.

Kathleen Allen evacuated her home s home south of Malott, Washington at 1 a.m. Friday morning. She said they've had nearby fires before.

“We've had to be aware, but not like this," Allen said. "Not where the whole north to south was all on fire and coming down and coming to the river and houses across the river from us, they've all burned -- that's what my son just told me.”

Allen described 12-foot-high flames coming out of her vineyard as she was leaving. She doesn't know if her house is still standing.

There are at least 27 large, uncontained fires burning across Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Crews are bracing for extreme fire activity to continue until the arrival of cooler weather promised for the weekend.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network

Jessica Robinson
Jessica Robinson reported for four years from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as the network's Inland Northwest Correspondent. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covered the economic, demographic and environmental trends that have shaped places east of the Cascades. Jessica left the Northwest News Network in 2015 for a move to Norway.
Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.