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article imageThree firefighters die in Washington state wildfire

By Karen Graham     Aug 20, 2015 in World
Twisp - Three firefighters died Wednesday after their vehicle crashed during a wildfire. The flames from the inferno likely overtook them, according to fire officials. Four other firefighters were injured, including one listed in critical condition.
The casualties occurred near the small towns of Twisp and Winthrop, as firefighters battled the blaze on several fronts and strong, erratic winds whipped the flames into an inferno, the fire advancing on towns in the north-central part of the state.
The firefighters were fighting the Twisp River fire, separate from the Okanogan Complex fire when the vehicle crashed. Local station King5 reports that Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers says, "The firefighters were engaged in initial attack operations when the crash occurred. it is believed that the fire overtook the vehicle."
With 40 mph wind gusts in the forecast for Thursday, firefighters will mourn the loss of their fellow firefighters while continuing to battle the fires. “The firefighting community is one of the closest knit groups of people probably on the planet and it was a tremendous loss. And today we’re going to try to stay focused,” said fire spokesperson Sarah Saarloos. “We still have 1,000-plus firefighters on this fire and we’re focused on the mission.”
In a statement, reported by KOMO News, the Forest Service identified the three firefighters who died as U.S. Forest Service employees. Of the four injured, two were state Department of Natural Resources employees, one is a DNR contractor, and one is a U.S. Forest Service worker. No names or other information is being released at this time until next of kin have been notified.
One firefighter remained in critical condition with severe burns in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. "He's got a lot of family by the bedside and I think that obviously helps and we're hopeful," she said.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has requested a federal emergency declaration so that more resources can be provided to fight the fires. "My heart breaks over the loss of life," Inslee said in a statement. "I know all Washington joins me and Trudi in sending our prayers to the families of these brave firefighters. They gave their lives to protect others. It was their calling, but the loss for their families is immense."
Evacuation orders have gone out for the two towns of Twisp and Winthrop, which have a combined population of 1,300 residents. Wednesday night, the town of Conconully, home to about 200 people 20 miles northwest of Omak was evacuated as fires approached.
More about three firefighters dead, twisp fire, Washington state, Four injured, strong erratic winds
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