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Washington wildfire destroys homes, forces hundreds to flee

A wildfire fueled by high temperatures and strong winds roared into a central Washington neighborhood, destroying residences and forcing residents of several hundred homes to flee, authorities said Monday.

The blaze ignited in brush just outside town Sunday afternoon and still was burning out of control, said Rich Magnussen, a spokesman for the Chelan County Emergency Management office.

Officials hoped rain falling early Monday would help crews get a handle on the flames in Wenatchee, about 120 miles east of Seattle, Washington State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright said.

"We know the fire has grown overnight and we lost several more structures," Wright said Monday.

The emergency management office said the evacuations were mainly in the north end of town, and included a Walmart store. The store did not burn, but several commercial buildings were near the blaze, Wright said.

Officials previously said at least a dozen structures - mainly houses - were destroyed, but a helicopter was getting an update Monday morning on the number of buildings damaged and how much land has burned.

There have been no immediate reports of injuries.

Officials know the fire started in brush on the edge of town but they are still trying to determine what sparked it, Magnussen said. Sweltering heat above 100 degrees, tinder-dry brush and strong winds helped fuel it.

Railroad traffic in the area has been shut down, including freight lines and Amtrak's daily Chicago to Seattle route, BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said.

The railroad is helping fight the fire by spraying water from tank cars and transferring water to firefighting trucks, he said. The fire has caused some rail damage that crews are inspecting and repairing, Melonas said.

Reports Sunday night said the fire had burned 2.6 square miles, but it has grown and officials are still determining its scope.

Hundreds of firefighters were on the scene and more headed there.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources in battling the blaze, dubbed the Sleepy Hollow Fire.

California crews scramble to fight wildfires amid drought 03:34

Meanwhile, about 3,000 firefighters continued to make progress on five large wildfires burning around California.

Showers on Sunday helped crews make gains on a wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest, which barely grew in size overnight.

The blaze, which erupted on June 17, was 50 percent contained after scorching 48 square miles of desert brush and forest timber. Firefighters hoped to take advantage of the weather to mop up and further surround the fire.

Authorities reopened a highway, and mandatory evacuation orders were lifted, except for the community of Burns Canyon. Hiking trails and camp sites remained closed. The firefighting effort has cost $27 million so far.

The fire destroyed a house and three out-buildings. A team of experts "will continue to evaluate the fire area for further damage," the Forest Service said in a statement.

Four firefighters were treated for injuries. The cause is under investigation.

Firefighters reported making headway on other fires. A 118-acre fire outside the city of San Bernardino was 95 percent contained. A 500-acre blaze in Madera County sparked by a vehicle was 97 percent surrounded. A 19-acre fire in Napa County was 80 percent contained.

A fire caused by lightning in Alpine County south of Lake Tahoe was 37 percent surrounded after burning about 27 square miles since Friday. The fire continued to smolder, mostly in the wilderness.

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