SEATTLE (AP) _ A wildfire fueled by high temperatures and strong winds roared into a central Washington neighborhood, destroying properties and forcing residents of several hundred homes to flee, authorities said Monday.
The blaze ignited in brush just outside Wenatchee on Sunday afternoon, quickly burning out of control and also leading some businesses to evacuate customers, said Rich Magnussen, a spokesman for the Chelan County Emergency Management office.
Rainfall Monday would help crews get a handle on the flames that burned 24 structures, including homes, about 120 miles east of Seattle, Washington State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright said.
Albert Rookard, who lives across the Wenatchee River from the blaze, said he stayed up late watching the fire, shocked at how fast it grew.
“From here, we could see embers just flying,” Rookard said. “There was fire in so many places. We could see emergency vehicles flashing across town.”
Evacuations were mainly in the north end of town and included a Walmart store, the emergency management office said. The store did not burn, but several commercial buildings were near the blaze, Wright said.
There have been no immediate reports of injuries.
Dominick Bonny, who lives just outside Wenatchee, called the speed of the blaze “just mind-blowing.”
“We’re fine now,” Bonny said. “Last night we watched the entire hill burn.”
Phil Bentz, who lives on the same side of the river as the fire, said his home had not been evacuated.
“We were waiting for someone to knock on the door, but they didn’t come. So far, so good,” Bentz said.
Officials know the fire started in brush on the edge of town but they are still trying to determine what sparked it. Sweltering heat above 100 degrees, tinder-dry brush and strong winds helped fuel it.
Railroad traffic in the area has been shut down, including freight lines and Amtrak’s daily Chicago to Seattle route, BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said.
The railroad helped battle the blaze by spraying water from tank cars and transferring water to firefighting trucks, he said. The flames have caused some rail damage that crews were inspecting and repairing, Melonas said.
Reports Sunday night said the fire had burned 2.6 square miles, but it has grown and a helicopter was getting an update its scope Monday morning, officials said.
Hundreds of firefighters were on the scene and more headed there.