US: Washington state declares emergency due to wildfires

A growing number of wildfires were threatening people and property in the western United States on Tuesday, with the governor of Washington state declaring a state of emergency in 20 counties.

"These fires threaten people, property and the natural resources of eastern Washington," Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement.

"This proclamation frees up state resources so we can provide the assistance that these communities might need. This is a time for all Washingtonians to come together."

The fires in the largely rural areas have destroyed more than 25 buildings and threatened hundreds more, triggering evacuations, Inslee said.

They included the Cherry Road Fire, which has charred 31,660 acres (12,800ha) and is 50 per cent contained, while the Kahlotus Fire has burned 20,000 acres and was 19 per cent contained, according to the Northwest Interagency Co-ordination Center.

The 3,750-acre Spokane Complex fire was threatening 167 residences, with two damaged and 12 destroyed.

Inslee noted weather conditions in the next seven days will be hot and windy, hampering efforts by firefighters who are already short-handed.

Further south along the Pacific coast, 10,000 firefighters were battling six gigantic wildfires in California.

In some positive news, the Blue Cut Fire in San Bernardino County, just 100 kilometres east of Los Angeles, was contained Tuesday morning.

It has forced the evacuation of more than 82,000 people, snarling traffic as highways across the region were closed.

The monster blaze has burned through 36,274 acres, destroying 321 buildings including 105 homes. That makes it the 20th most destructive fire in California history, according to Cal Fire.

The Chimney Fire, which has burned 37,101 acres in California’s San Luis Obispo wine region, was raging just 3.2 kilometres east of the iconic Hearst Castle mansion, which remains shuttered, the Los Angeles Times said.

Also known as San Simeon, the castle once owned by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the state, drawing millions of visitors each year, according to local tourism officials.

The fire has already charred 52 buildings and threatened 1,900 others.

Across the country, 18,000 firefighters were fighting 32 huge fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, mainly in western states.


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