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Winds push growing northwestern US wildfire

WINTHROP, Washington--Pushed by howling, erratic winds, a massive wildfire in northwestern Washington state was growing rapidly and burning in new directions Saturday.

Road closures and evacuations were changing regularly, as hot weather and winds with gusts up to 48 kph were pushing the fire over ridge tops and toward a cluster of small towns northeast of Seattle.

“This is a very active and fluid situation,” fire spokesman Chuck Turey said.

As of Saturday morning, the lightning-caused fire had scorched nearly 880 square kilometers in the scenic Methow Valley. The fire was measured at 673 square kilometer miles Friday.

The fire has blackened hillsides, destroyed homes and downed power lines. Many towns were without electrical power or phone service Saturday.

Officials said there are no reports of serious injuries and only one more structure was destroyed overnight by the lightning-caused wildfire.

Minor burns and bruises had been reported, but Turey called that “a pretty amazing safety record.”

Airplanes and helicopters were dropping water and fire retardant on all parts of the fire, with no one area more of a concern than another, Turey said.

As the fire got closer the town of Carlton, rancher Pete Scott brought 60 cattle to his property in town from the range land. His home, a green oasis, is serving a meeting point for some of the displaced residents. “We're trying to survive,” Scott said.

The fire has calmed down near another town, Pateros, where it destroyed about 100 homes Thursday and Friday, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.

The fire has picked up on its north side closer to Winthrop, but winds have been erratic and were blowing the fire in different directions.

The blaze was burning in a sparsely populated area, with homes scattered throughout the woods and along the highway.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, gusting winds and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters.

Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state's Military Department, said 100 National Guard troops were on standby.

The Washington state Department of Natural Resources announced Saturday evening that firefighters from New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are coming to the state to help battle the blazes.

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A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant over a wildfire as smoke rises and billows behind, near Carlton, Washington, Saturday, July 19.

(AP)

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