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Wildfires burning in eastern Washington have killed at least two people and burned more than 200 buildings since igniting Friday, authorities said.
One person was found dead over the weekend in an area of the Gray fire that sparked west of Spokane, and fire officials told The Associated Press Monday another body was found Sunday afternoon in an area burned in the Oregon fire north of Spokane.
The Gray fire started near Medical Lake in Spokane County around noon Friday and had burned about 15.6 square miles as of Monday.
Officials estimate the fire has displaced over 5,000 residents.
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The Gray fire has damaged or destroyed at least 185 buildings, and that number is expected to rise as officials assess the destruction. (MrBucketlist via Storyful)
“It spread so fast, and I was there just trying to help get people out,” Medical Lake resident Kristina Orchard told KOMO News. “Everything seemed so eerie and empty, like something out of a movie that you would never expect to happen to you in your hometown.”
The Gray fire ignited near Medical Lake in Spokane County around noon Friday. The wildfire had burned about 15.6 square miles and displaced around 5,000 residents in the area as of Monday, according to officials. (Spokane Fire District 10)
Isabelle Hoygaard, public information officer with the Gray fire incident management team, said at least 185 buildings have been destroyed or damaged, with “a good majority” of the destruction occurring within the small city of Medical Lake and nearby Silver Lake. The number is expected to increase as crews continue to assess damage.
Fire crews made progress battling the Gray fire Monday. (Spokane Fire District 10)
The Oregon fire also began Friday afternoon northeast of Elk, Washington, burning about 15.8 square miles of forest and cropland as of Monday, according to fire officials.
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The blaze has consumed more than 80 buildings and about 150 remain at risk, according to Guy Gifford, public information officer for the Oregon fire.
In this aerial photo taken Friday, smoke is billowing from the Oregon fire. (Washington State Department of Natural Resources)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee toured the burned areas Sunday and declared a statewide emergency.
Inslee posted on social media that he had spoken with both President Biden and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell about securing federal aid. The Democrat also wrote that both he and Biden agreed that climate change is a factor in the “worsening wildfires.”
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Officials are investigating the cause of both fires. Dry, windy conditions played a role in both fires and prompted warnings of critical fire danger in the region.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.