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 U.S. Forest Service emergency workers in Washington state cut brush as wildfires rage near residential areas. (Photo: AP)

State of Emergency Declared as Wildfires Create 'Unprecedented Cataclysm' in Washington

Four other states also fighting massive blazes, including drought-stricken California

Nadia Prupis

Three firefighters were killed this week and President Barack Obama on Friday issued an emergency order over wildfires raging through central Washington state.

Emergency workers from Australia and New Zealand have been flown in to help the crews currently fighting blazes in five states, including Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

The damage has hit hundreds of thousands of acres of land, including Indigenous territory. In Washington alone, 11 counties have been affected, as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation.

According to a White House news release, the state of emergency authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.

Okanogan County information officer Dan Omdal told the Seattle Times that "people should take care of themselves and their neighbors, but it's 'no time for heroics.'"

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, according to a White House news release.

The wildfires continue raging as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that this July was the hottest month the planet has ever experienced since record-keeping began. And a study published Thursday revealed that steadily rising temperatures have increased California's historic four-year drought by up to 27 percent—which, in turn, has exacerbated this year's devastating fire season.

Reuters continues:

For the first time in state history, Washington’s department of natural resources (DNR) is accepting volunteers to assist with fighting fires and to donate equipment.

[...] A cold front is moving into the region and while it will create more tolerable temperatures for firefighters, the National Weather Service said the accompanying low relative humidity “will create extreme fire growth potential”.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday called the fires "an unprecedented cataclysm."

"These fires have burned a big hole in the state's heart," Inslee said.


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