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Multiple Wildfires Devastate Large Swaths Of Areas In Eastern Washington

NOEL KING, HOST:

In Washington state, fires burned more land in a day than they normally burn in entire fire seasons. Here's Anna King from Northwest News Network.

ANNA KING: On Labor Day, several already serious fires made big runs. In Northeast Washington, the Cold Spring Fire ran some 60 miles, part of nearly 500 square miles that burned in a single day.

CRYSTAL RAYMOND: Basically, climate change is loading the dice. And then you get a wind event, and things are just ready to go.

A KING: Crystal Raymond is a research scientist with the University of Washington's Climate Impact Group. This year's wildfire season in the Northwest seemed pretty quiet until now, she says. It was a cool, wet spring and June, but Raymond says climate change makes wildfire seasons longer. Now northwest interagency fire center spokeswoman Carol Connolly says fire managers are reassessing where to put air support and crews.

CAROL CONNOLLY: They're going to look at resources that are currently assigned to large fires, how we can maybe move those, share those with the existing large fires to the new ones.

A KING: They'll come too late for the small town of Malden, Wash. Three fires converged on it on Labor Day. An hour later, about 80% of the town of 300 was lost. Shannon Thornton and her husband Shawn used to own a home there. Now it's just burnt up.

SHANNON THORNTON: But you know what? The good thing is is that my chickens survived. Their house is gone.

A KING: Some friends and neighbors gather around the wreckage, but they can't go through what's left because the ashes are still too hot. Extreme fire danger is forecast for the rest of the week in the northwest. For NPR News, I'm Anna King.

(SOUNDBITE OF FAIT'S "SURRENDER TO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.