Wildfires trigger new evacuation orders across U.S. Northwest

Active-Duty Military Called to Battle Wildfires in West

Wildfires raging across the U.S. Northwest triggered new evacuation orders for hundreds of homes as firefighters battled more than a dozen major blazes across drought-parched Western states, authorities said on Wednesday.

The blazes have blackened more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) across the arid region, prompting fire managers to call in help from the U.S. Army and abroad.

This week, the national year-to-date tally of area burned passed 7 million acres (2.9 million hectares). That figure had not been reached so early in the year for two decades.

Related images of wildfires in Washington state:

Washington State wildfires August 2015
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Wildfires trigger new evacuation orders across U.S. Northwest
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)

In north-central Washington state, about 200 people were forced from their residences as a cluster of fires bore down on the town of Conconully late on Tuesday, said Lorraine Utt at the county's emergency operations center.

More than 1,400 other people were placed under evacuation orders across the county, Utt added, but most of them had since been allowed to return to homes.

To the south, firefighters by Wednesday managed to dig containment lines around about half of a wildfire burning on the outskirts of Chelan, Washington, a resort town at the southern tip of Lake Chelan, fire information officer Lorena Wisehart said.

In central Oregon, another conflagration of wildfires near the rural community of John Day had destroyed three dozen homes since the weekend and threatened many others.

The state's fire marshal's office said high winds posed a challenge as ground crews fought to keep the 48,200-acre (19,500-hectare) fire away from homes and a critical power transmission line.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown was due to tour the area later on Wednesday.

In the mountains of north-central Idaho, a group of blazes that grew to 100 square miles (260 square km) forced evacuations on Tuesday from dozens of homes near the small town of Weippe.

The so-called Clearwater Complex of fires burning in and around the Nez Perce Indian Reservation has consumed 50 homes and 80 outbuildings near the logging town of Kamiah, Idaho, since it was sparked by lightning last week.

An elderly woman in the area was killed when she fell and struck her head while trying to secure her backyard chickens before fleeing the fire with her husband, authorities said.

On Wednesday, flames were advancing on Kamiah from three sides as another part of the complex was reaching north toward Weippe, said federal fire information officer Dixie Dies.

"This fire is amoebic. It's spreading everywhere," Dies said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho, and Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Ore.; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Daniel Wallisand Peter Cooney)

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