Wildfires Sweep Washington State

As firefighters battled a 16,000-acre wildfire outside the south-central Washington town of Bickleton, new blazes exploded elsewhere, killing a farmer as he tried to flee across a wheat field in his combine.

A Ritzville man in his late 60s was killed as flames swept over the combine, Adams County Sheriff Mike Kline said. The man was apparently unable to outrun the flames that eventually blackened the field.

A few homes were evacuated and some outbuildings were destroyed in the sparsely populated area north of Ritzville. There were no reports of damaged homes, though some were without electricity and phone service.

A scorched pick-up
sits amidst the ash (KREM)
The fire 50 miles southwest of Spokane was sparked Wednesday afternoon, apparently by railroad workers, and quickly burned 5,000 acres, fanned by winds from a lightning storm.

Meanwhile, 800 firefighters battled a fire in Klickitat County's grass and timber land in south-central Washington. The fire has destroyed 14 structures since Monday, including at least three houses. It was believed to have been started by lightning.

It has burned about 16,000 acres and is considered about half contained. John and Margaret Goodman tried to outrun the fire when it headed for their home. They crammed a pony, a goat, 10 kittens, three cats, and five dogs into their van.

There was no room for their three horses, so they let the stallion and two mares loose, counting on the animals' instincts to keep them from the flames. "I just turned around. I couldn't watch them go," Mrs. Goodman said. "They're our babies."

The Goodmans didn't know if their house is gone, because the area was temporarily inaccessible. Bonnie and Fred Siegfried already know their house was destroyed. They were surrounded by flames but managed to escape by driving out in their motor home.

"We almost didn't get out," said Mrs. Siegfried, who, despite the loss, was waiting tables Wednesday at the Bluebird Inn, feeding some of the evacuees and hundreds of firefighters in town.

Also Wednesday, firefighters finished clearing brush and trees around a 2,500-acre wildfire on the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeast Washington. The blaze was believed to have been sparked by lightning.