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‘Funnel of fire’ destroys homes in Washington state



Published: Sat, July 19, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

PATEROS, Wash.

A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley.

Friday’s dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.

A wall of fire wiped out a block of homes on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

“It was just a funnel of fire,” Brownlee said. “All you could do was watch her go.”

Next door, the Pateros Community Church appeared largely undamaged.

The pavement of U.S. Highway 97 stopped the advance of some of the flames, protecting parts of the town.

Firefighters poured water over the remnants of homes Friday morning, raising clouds of smoke, steam and dust. Two big water towers perched just above the town were singed black. Ash fell like snowflakes.

The fire consumed utility poles from two major power lines, knocking out power to Pateros as well as the towns of Winthrop and Twisp to the north.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, and gusting winds and lightning. Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.


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