A reduction in winds on Saturday helped firefighters battling a series of massive fires in north-central Washington that have resulted in three deaths thus far.
As of late Saturday, the Okanogan Complex wildfires were estimated at 355 square miles, approximately 100 square miles larger than Friday, fire spokesperson Rick Isaacson stated.
But the wildfires were moving away from residential centers in Okanogan County, which is the largest by land area in Washington. Thousands of residents in the county remained under evacuation orders of different levels after powerful winds drove flames across arid land earlier this week.
According to Sheriff Frank Rogers, it was too soon to say how many houses had been destroyed in the 5,300-square-miles county. According to the sheriff, the current estimate of 33 structures and three homes lost was very preliminary.
"That'll take weeks," the sheriff said, adding, "I know we are going to have quite a few."
The wildfires are destroying only single homes or properties at a time, not whole neighborhoods, the sheriff said. "It's not 45 or 50 in one spot," he added.
Resources were so stressed that on Saturday fire personnel began providing fundamental fire teaching to volunteers who have equipment like bulldozers and backhoes they can use to dig fire lines.
In the meantime, a second of the four firefighters injured in a raging fire on Wednesday has been moved to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the region's main burn center. Speaking on Saturday, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said the fireman was moved on Friday evening and is listed in stable condition.
Gregg did not reveal the firefighter's name or the degree of his injuries, but she said he was a 47-year-old man from the area.
According to Gregg, "His thoughts are with the other injured firefighters and those who died."
Three firemen died and four were injured when the fire overtook them on Wednesday while they were fighting the Okanogan Complex. Another fireman remains in serious condition at Harborview with burns to over 60 percent of his body.