Fire-battered West gets help from other nations, volunteers

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3 Firefighters Killed While Battling Wildfire In Washington State

OKANOGAN, Wash. (AP) -- Firefighters from as far as Australia and New Zealand have arrived in the West as massive wildfires raging in Washington state and elsewhere in the region taxed resources and led officials to put out a wide call for help.

In Washington, a series of fires raging in the north-central part of the state that earlier killed three firefighters has now grown to become the largest in state history, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said Monday.

The lightning-caused Okanogan Complex of fires were measured overnight at just over 400 square miles. That's slightly more than last year's Carlton Complex blazes, which also were sparked by lightning and burned in Okanogan County.

"I'd like to set some different records," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Monday.

Last year's fires were grouped closer together and destroyed some 300 homes, Rogers said. This year, wildfires are burning across the large county and officials have no idea how many homes have burned.

The Okanogan Complex of fires grew by more than 26 square miles Sunday and is expected to spread even more in coming days.

Photos from the Washington state wildfires:

34 PHOTOS
Washington State wildfires August 2015
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Fire-battered West gets help from other nations, volunteers
OMAK, WA - AUGUST 22: A makeshift fire truck puts water on a wildfire, which is part of the Okanogan Complex, as it burns through brush on August 22, 2015 near Omak, Washington. The fires have burned more tha 127,000 acres. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
OMAK, WA - AUGUST 23: A farmer mows alfalfa amid the smoke from the Okanagon Complex Wildfires on August 23, 2015 near Omak, Washington. More than 1,000 personnel are fighting the Okanagon Complex Fires which have burned more 239,000 acres. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
OKANOGAN, WA - AUGUST 22: Firefighters extinguish hotpots after a wildfire, part of the Okanogan Complex, swept through the area on August 22, 2015 near Okanogan, Washington. The Okanogan Complex fires have burned more than 127,000 acres. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
OMAK, WA - AUGUST 21: A wildfire, which is part of the Okanogan Complex, flares up on August 21, 2015 in the hills near Omak, Washington. The fires, which killed three firefighters and critically injured another, threaten homes and communities throughout the area. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Authorities on Wednesday afternoon urged people in the north-central Washington town to evacuate because of a fast-moving wildfire. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this Monday, Aug, 17, 2015, photo, a sheep dog and her two pups protect a dead fawn, killed when fire swept through Kamiah, Idaho. The dogs stayed for hours, warding off people and potential predators, according to a witness. The group of fires near Kamiah, in northern Idaho, has destroyed more than 40 homes. (Louis Armstrong via AP)
Flames and smoke rise on a ridge line above a ranch on Twisp River Road in Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Authorities on Wednesday afternoon urged people in the north-central Washington town to evacuate because of a fast-moving wildfire. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Washington National Guard soldier, left, tosses a flare as his team burns brush and other materials inside their dirt fire line near a home threatened by the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. The troops in Washington state were part of a massive response to blazes burning uncontrolled throughout the West. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Colby Lyon, right, of the Central Region Strike Force Team II, sprays a hillside with water as he works with Washington National Guard soldiers to fight the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. The troops in Washington state were part of a massive response to blazes burning uncontrolled throughout the West. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Flames burn forest debris at the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Three Washington National Guard soldiers stand near a structure as they fight the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. The troops in Washington state were part of a massive response to blazes burning throughout the West. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington National Guard Sgt. Danny Redington uses a flare to light controlled back burns as he fights the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. The troops in Washington state were part of a massive response to blazes burning throughout the West. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A fire-retardant airplane passes near the sun turned orange with smoke as a wildfire burns near Twisp, Wash. Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
An air tanker drops red fire retardant on a wildfire near Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Authorities on Wednesday afternoon urged people in the north-central Washington town to evacuate because of a fast-moving wildfire. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Chris Schaefer, a faller with U.S. Timber Cuters, cuts down a tree, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, near a fire line on the First Creek Fire near Chelan, Wash. Trees that posed a risk to firefighters or that could fall and carry fire across dirt fire lines were being cut Wednesday as firefighters braced for high winds and heat later in the day. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Authorities on Wednesday afternoon urged people in the north-central Washington town to evacuate because of a fast-moving wildfire. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington National Guard Sgt. Danny Redington carries water on his back to fight hot spots as he stands near a burning tree while fighting the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. The troops in Washington state were part of a massive response to blazes burning throughout the West. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington National Guard Sgt. Matt Eagen checks under a large rock for hotspots on a hillside as he fights the First Creek Fire, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. The troops in Washington state were part of a massive response to blazes burning throughout the West. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Timber burns in the First Creek fire near lakeside structures on the western shore of Lake Chelan late Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. Big wildfires threatened the Lake Chelan resort region of central Washington on Monday after driving away tourists, destroying a warehouse filled with nearly 2 million pounds of apples and forcing thousands of residents to flee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Timber burns in the First Creek fire near lakeside structures on the western shore of Lake Chelan late Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, near Chelan, Wash. Big wildfires threatened the Lake Chelan resort region of central Washington on Monday after driving away tourists, destroying a warehouse filled with nearly 2 million pounds of apples and forcing thousands of residents to flee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chelan County Public Utility District worker walks past a burned structure along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Big wildfires threatened the Lake Chelan resort region of central Washington on Monday after driving away tourists, destroying a warehouse filled with nearly 2 million pounds of apples and forcing thousands of residents to flee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chelan County Public Utility District worker walks past a burned truck along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, just outside of Chelan, Wash. Workers were in the area replacing burnt utility poles and inspecting power and other utility lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A burned structure is shown along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, just outside of Chelan, Wash. Several large fires burning near the town destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, officials said. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chelan County Public Utility District truck drives near a burned structure Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, just outside of Chelan, Wash. Several large fires burning near the town destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, officials said. Workers were in the area replacing burnt utility poles and inspecting power and other utility lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chelan County Public Utility District truck is parked near a burned structure Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, just outside of Chelan, Wash. Several large fires burning near the town destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, officials said. Workers were in the area replacing burnt utility poles and inspecting power and other utility lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Chelan County Public Utility District workers walk near a new power pole, at right, to replace one that burned along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, just outside of Chelan, Wash. Several large fires burning near the town destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, officials said. Workers were in the area replacing burnt utility poles and inspecting power and other utility lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A helicopter used for fighting wildfires carries a water bucket above a burned ridge line above the Columbia river, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Big wildfires threatened the Lake Chelan resort region of central Washington on Monday after driving away tourists, destroying a warehouse filled with nearly 2 million pounds of apples and forcing thousands of residents to flee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chelan County Public Utility District worker surveys a burned structure along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Workers were in the area replacing burnt utility poles and inspecting power and other utility lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A business sign thanks firefighters, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Several large fires burning near the town destroyed dozens of homes and businesses over the weekend, officials said. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A burned structure is shown along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, just outside of Chelan, Wash. Several large fires burning near the town destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, officials said. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A partially melted swing set sits next to a burned structure along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. The blazes near Chelan, about 180 miles east of Seattle, are burning through grass, brush and timber, fire spokeswoman Janet Pearce said. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A helicopter used for fighting wildfires flies above the Columbia river, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Big wildfires threatened the Lake Chelan resort region of central Washington on Monday after driving away tourists, destroying a warehouse filled with nearly 2 million pounds of apples and forcing thousands of residents to flee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chelan County Public Utility District worker climbs a utility pole in a burned area along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Workers were in the area replacing burnt utility poles and inspecting power and other utility lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Remains from a burned structure sit along State Route Alt. 97 highway Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, outside of Chelan, Wash. Big wildfires threatened the Lake Chelan resort region of central Washington on Monday after driving away tourists, destroying a warehouse filled with nearly 2 million pounds of apples and forcing thousands of residents to flee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Isaacson did not have a containment estimate, but there is very little containment on the wildfire.

Isaacson called the record unfortunate and said the fire could burn until rain and snow season arrives.

"It's only Aug. 24th," Isaacson said. "In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November."

Rogers noted that many of the fires are burning in heavily timbered areas on steep terrain.

"There's no way to fight them," Rogers said.

About 1,250 people are battling the Okanogan Complex, Isaacson said. Last week, three firefighters were killed and four injured when they were overtaken while trying to escape the flame.

About 70 fire managers from Australia and New Zealand arrived in Boise, Idaho, and were scheduled to receive protective gear Monday before heading out to fight fires burning in the West.

In Washington, resources were so strained that officials earlier took the unprecedented step of seeking volunteers to help fight the flames. Fire officials over the weekend began providing basic fire training to volunteers who have machinery like backhoes and bulldozers so they can help dig fire lines.

Sixteen large wildfires are burning across central and eastern Washington, covering more than 920 square miles. More than 200 homes have been destroyed, and more than 12,000 homes and thousands of other structures remain threatened.

Elsewhere, crews increased containment of a wildfire burning through timber near a popular Southern California ski resort, though hundreds of mountain homes remained threatened early Monday.

Several water and retardant-dropping aircraft were making runs over the blaze near Snow Summit resort in Big Bear Lake, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

Firefighters working through the night held the blaze to about 100 acres. It was 50 percent contained.

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Geranios reported from Spokane.

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