Help arrives in battle against Washington state fires

By The Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 25, 2015 at 1:01 p.m.



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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Firefighters in Washington state are grateful to learn that reinforcements are arriving from Down Under.

The crews are concerned about rising temperatures and winds that are threatening to expand what is already the largest wildfire on record in the state. The Okanogan (oh-kah-NAH'-guhn) fires have claimed the lives of three firefighters. They grew by 2.6 square miles last night, and have now burned 403 square miles.

Seventy-one firefighters from Australia and New Zealand picked up equipment yesterday in Idaho before heading out to help the ground campaign led by firefighters from across the West. Sixteen of them are being assigned to the Washington fires. They'll work mostly in support functions, but some may operate bulldozers.

So many fires are burning in Washington that managers are taking extreme measures, summoning help from abroad and 200 U.S. troops from a base in Tacoma in the first such use of active-duty soldiers in nine years.

In Montana, fire officials say heavy smoke is hanging over wildfires in the western part of the state, robbing the fires of oxygen and helping firefighters make progress.

%@AP Links

173-a-13-(Todd Pechota (puh-CHOH'-tuh), fire incident commander, at news conference)-"to contructing line"-Fire incident commander Todd Pechota says the crews continue to battle full-force at the Okanogan Complex Fire. ((Okanogan is pronounced oh-kah-NAH'-guhn)) (25 Aug 2015)

<<CUT *173 (08/25/15)££ 00:13 "to contructing line"

175-a-06-(Todd Pechota (puh-CHOH'-tuh), fire incident commander, at news conference)-"of the smoke"-Fire incident commander Todd Pechota says this has been another day when they haven't been able to fight the fire from the air. (25 Aug 2015)

<<CUT *175 (08/25/15)££ 00:06 "of the smoke"

174-a-14-(Todd Pechota (puh-CHOH'-tuh), fire incident commander, at news conference)-"on the ground"-Fire incident commander Todd Pechota says they've gotten more help. (25 Aug 2015)

<<CUT *174 (08/25/15)££ 00:14 "on the ground"

APPHOTO IDKR101: Warren Heslip, 47, of Southland, New Zealand, receives a yellow firefighting shirt on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015 at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Australian and New Zealand firefighters have arrived in the United States and prepared to fan out to help fight wildfires burning in several western states. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler) (24 Aug 2015)

<<APPHOTO IDKR101 (08/24/15)££

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The Associated Press

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