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Hundreds evacuated as Washington wildfire grows

By Dave Alsup and Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Smoke from a wildfire darkens the sky near Leanworth, Washington.
Smoke from a wildfire darkens the sky near Leanworth, Washington.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The fire started Wednesday and was 465 acres the last time officials measured it
  • It had gotten bigger, causing authorities to order evacuations
  • One restaurant worker said her place was still open even as she could smell the smoke
  • About 180 firefighters are going up against the blaze

(CNN) -- Authorities were telling hundreds of people in western Washington to leave their homes immediately Wednesday evening because of a fast-moving wildfire, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Natural Resources said.

"The Chiwaukum Creek Fire is growing quickly. The winds are pushing it quickly," Janet Pearce said. "Homes near Leavenworth have received a Level 3 evacuation notice, which means get out of there now." Some 860 homes were affected by the order.

Smoke from the fire could be seen in Seattle, 135 miles by car to the west.

Naomi Roberts, a supervisor at Gustav's Beer Garden & Grill in Leavenworth, said the business sent many of its servers home to evacuate.

"It's black outside. The sun is shining through the holes in the smoke. Yeah, you can smell it. There is ash coming from the sky," Roberts said.

The restaurant remained open.

"Campers are getting evacuated," she said. "The highway to Seattle is shut down. So they are coming to us."

The fire started as a 465-acre blaze earlier Wednesday and exploded on forest officials, said Laurie Dowie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. It was unclear how large the fire had grown.

About 180 personnel were working the fire, which was burning in tall timber in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest and land owned by Weyerhaeuser, a large company dealing in wood, paper and other forest products.

Authorities closed U.S. Highway 2, the main road to Leavenworth.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for 20 counties because of several wildfires.

In Oregon, 13 wildfires were burning, leading Gov. John Kitzhaber to declare a state of emergency.

"Oregon is facing a severe fire season. Conditions are dry and new fires are starting daily," he said in a written statement. The governor's declaration gave the National Guard the authority to assist the Forestry Department.

What to know about wildfires

4,300-acre wildfires burns in California's Napa wine area

CNN's Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.

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