NEW: The fires have burned almost 250,000 acres
A town of 650 people empties out as flames engulf most of the homes
Across the border in a Canadian town, 2,500 residents are evacuated from 1,100 homes
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Wildfires spanning almost 250,000 acres are driving hundreds of people from their homes in Washington state and across the border in Canada, officials said.
As of Sunday morning, the total number of acres burning in Washington rose to 248,775, according to online tracking site InciWeb. Authorities there say the flames have encroached on towns.
Janet Pearce of the Washington state Department of Natural Resources said the four fires had not been contained as of Friday morning. An estimated 80 homes were destroyed and cell phone service was knocked out. There were no reports of injuries or missing persons.
Pateros on the Columbia River was hit particularly hard, when flames came over a hill and spilled into the town’s valley Thursday, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.
The entire town of roughly 650 people was evacuated, he said, and most of the homes caught fire.
“We were sitting down below the hill and the wind shifted, and within half of an hour the backside of the town was burning,” Rogers said.
The winds are fanning flames in many parts of the county, which borders British Columbia, Canada, he said.
In the nearby town of Brewster, the hospital was evacuated, he said.
The town of Leavenworth appeals to tourists with its Bavarian theme and backdrop of alpine peaks. There, Gustav’s Grill and Beer Garden sent workers home Wednesday so they’d evacuate.
“It’s black outside,” manager Naomi Roberts said. “The sun is shining through the holes in the smoke.”
But she has not closed the restaurant. “Campers are getting evacuated. The highway to Seattle is shut down. So they are coming to us,” she said.
Across the Canadian border, authorities evacuated 2,500 residents from 1,100 homes in West Kelowna, according to a local emergency management agency.
But no homes had been lost there.