Massive blazes in West draining firefighting resources

CHELAN, Wash. -- More than 80 wildfires are raging across the West, stretching resources to the limit.

Nearly 29,000 firefighters are on the front lines, but it's not enough to handle the wildfires burning in eight Western states.

In Washington state, one fire has burned 62-square miles. Firefighters have managed to get it 30 percent contained.

For days, firefighters in central Washington have been up against stubborn flames that appear as quickly as firefighters can put them out.

wa-wildfire-1.jpg
Timber burns in the First Creek fire near lakeside structures on the western shore of Lake Chelan late Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, near Chelan, Washington. AP

Black Hawk helicopters sent in by the National Guard have been making water drops on new flames that sparked in the hills.

Matt Eagan is one of 100 National Guard members pressed in to service. He's exhausted after spending 16 hours a day combing the hillside for hot spots, to protect the homes in the line of fire.

Pentagon sends troops to help fight Western wildfires

"We are all pretty much beat," Eagan says. "I wouldn't imagine doing this for the whole season like the actual firefighters do."

National Guard team Leader Kurt Stitch says they are working hard to keep up progress.

"I'm not looking for an end in sight," Stitch says. "We could see September, October being just as active with fire behavior as we're seeing now if we don't see significant rainfall."

So far, 35 homes have been destroyed in the city of Chelan and 450 others are in danger.

Other parts of the West are seeing no relief. In California, more than 12,000 firefighters are battling 18 active wildfires. And a fire whirl in Idaho that sent flames shooting 100 feet in the air.

Back in central Washington, more 100,000 acres have burned in the past two months, right at the peak of Chelan's tourist season. The resort town once known for its lakeside views is now lined with burned homes.

Teacher Rod Cool lost his home as flames raced up a hill.

"All the kids I've had and all my friends that were fireman, every one of them tried to come down here and put this out, but they couldn't get here," Cool says. "The power lines came down, the smoke was too thick."

The 200 active duty troops the Pentagon is sending to Washington to help battle the wildfires are expected to arrive Thursday.

The forecast for Chelan is calling for stronger winds in the coming days, so firefighters will need all the extra help they can get.