Three firefighters died and four others were injured while battling a wildfire in northern Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday evening.
The firefighters, confronting a blaze in Okanogan County that prompted evacuations in the towns of Twisp and Winthrop, about 150 miles northeast of Seattle, “were engaged in initial attack operations and were involved in a vehicle accident when it is believed that the fire overtook the vehicle,” according to an account by Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers that was provided by the Forest Service and the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The three firefighters who died were Forest Service employees based in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Of the four firefighters injured, one was employed by the Forest Service, two worked for the state Department of Natural Resources and one was a contractor with the department.
“My heart breaks over the loss of life,” Inslee said in a statement. “They gave their lives to protect others. It was their calling, but the loss for their families is immense.”
Inslee also requested a federal declaration of emergency for the state, saying 11 counties are battling more than 40 fires in all. Lightning strikes and gusty winds are expected to spark and spread more blazes in the coming days, his request said.