A wildfire in Washington state has claimed the lives of at least two people after closing down a major highway and destroying nearly 200 structures, officials announced Saturday.
The fire, which began Friday afternoon approximately 15 miles west of Spokane, quickly spread across 15 square miles by Saturday morning with zero containment, Washington State Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Isabelle Hoygaard stated, according to CBS News. No further updates on the size or containment of the fire have been reported as of the time of publication.
The fast-moving fire burned through the south side of the town of Medical Lake before jumping Interstate 90 on Friday night, forcing officials to close down access to the highway, the outlet stated. Evacuations were ordered for Medical Lake and nearby communities. Two medical facilities were sheltering in place as the fire destroyed approximately 185 structures, CBS News reported.
As these fires rage in Spokane County, the state is providing every resource we can to help. We want people to be safe and heed the warnings of emergency responders. Thank you to all who are fighting these fires right now. pic.twitter.com/1HJ8Ubjsxh
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) August 19, 2023
Spokane City Councilman Zack Zappone revealed that his parents were among those evacuated. “They were driving into Spokane when they got alerts on their phone that there were … evacuations at their house,” Zappone told The Associated Press (AP). “They went back to get their dogs. My stepmom said it was a giant cloud of smoke and darkness. Embers were falling from the sky. She was having trouble breathing,” he continued.
Those who were evacuated were offered shelter at a local hospital overnight, the outlet stated. Hoygaard revealed that one fatality was confirmed as a result of the fire, though details regarding the death were not disclosed, CBS News reported. (RELATED: ‘We Are Suffering’: Maui Residents Slam Biden Admin Response To Deadly Wildfires)
Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee shared his concerns with the residents of Medical Lake and the first responders Friday evening, hoping they would “remain safe and out of harm’s way.” He posted a Saturday video message on social media, assuring residents the state was “providing every resource” to help extinguish the flames and help its citizens.
“We want people to be safe and heed the warnings of emergency responders. Thank you to all who are fighting these fires right now,” Inslee stated.
The cause of the fire is not known at this time, CBS News reported.