Deadly Wildfires Ravage Western States

August 25,2015

Wildfires have been raging in the western states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California forcing thousands of residents from their homes. Officials are hoping to contain the flames before they reach industrial sites and produce toxic fumes. Three firefighters have died in the effort.

Planes and helicopters have been dropping water and flame retardants in efforts to stop the fires from spreading.

"[The planes are] most impressive. It's incredible to see the air attack tankers come in like they do, especially the DC-10," said Mike Pruitt, a resident of Winthrop, Washington.

But heavy smoke above some areas makes flying to them impossible.

"It's a blessing and a curse, the smoke. It keeps a lid on things and kind of reduces fire behavior a little bit, but at the same time when it's so smoky we can't fly aircraft," said Todd Pechota, an incident commander in Okanogan, Washington.

Officials are warning residents to stay indoors until the smoke clears. The smoke and frequent evacuations also have been hard on the local farm animals.

Nearly 29,000 firefighters are working to extinguish large fires across the drought-and-heat-stricken West. Many residents have joined the effort to contain the march of fires approaching their homes and to offer refuge to those who had to flee theirs.

"This is a very generous and very tightly-knit community. And so as soon as the word got out people, you know folks that knew each other, opened up their homes to each other and even some of the lodges opened up and allowed people to stay at the lodge for the night," said Chon Bribiescas of the U.S. Forest Service.

There is fear that a coming storm could flare up the fires in some parts of Washington state. The good news is that fires were cleared in some places, enabling residents to return to their homes.