From just across the Wenatchee River, Dominick Bonny watched a whole neighborhood in his central Washington town burn as a wildfire destroyed two dozen homes and forced hundreds to flee. "With the wind blowing away from us, it was like we were watching a natural disaster within arm's reach," he says. The wildfires hit parts of central and eastern Washington over the weekend as the state is struggling with a severe drought. Mountain snowpack is at extremely low levels, and about one-fifth of the state's rivers and streams are at record low levels.
Eastern Washington has been experiencing temperatures into the 100s, and last week Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation that allows state resources to quickly be brought in to respond to wildfires. In Wenatchee, the wildfire fueled by high temperatures and strong winds roared into town yesterday afternoon. The blaze ignited in brush just outside Wenatchee, quickly burning out of control about 120 miles east of Seattle. Rainfall today provided relief, but hot, dry conditions and wind could challenge crews trying to get a handle on the flames that burned more than an estimated 4 square miles, officials say. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries, but no injuries to residents were reported.