MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. (AP) — A wind-driven wildfire in eastern Washington state has destroyed at least 185 structures, closed a major highway and left one person dead, authorities said Saturday.
The blaze began shortly after midday Friday on the west side of Medical Lake, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Spokane, and then expanded, Washington State Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Isabelle Hoygaard said.
It grew to nearly 15 square miles (38 square kilometers) by Saturday morning, with zero containment. The burned structures were a mix of homes and outbuildings.
Evacuations were ordered for the town as winds blew the flames southward, Hoygaard said.
She added that the blaze burned through the south side of the town and then jumped Interstate 90 on Friday night, forcing its closure. The major east-west thoroughfare remained closed in both directions Saturday morning.
“The fire is burning on both sides of the highway,” the Washington state Department of Transportation said on its webpage.
There was one confirmed fatality associated with the fire, Hoygaard said. Further details were not immediately released.
Staff, patients and residents at Eastern State Hospital, one of the state’s two psychiatric facilities, and those living at the Lakeland Village Residential Habilitation Center, both in Medical Lake, were sheltering in place Saturday, said Norah West, a spokesman for the Department of Social and Health Services.
Evacuees from the town were given shelter at a high school overnight.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
“My thoughts are with the … residents who have been ordered to evacuate as the Gray Fire grows,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said on X, formally known as Twitter. “I’m also praying for the safety of the first responders working to contain the fire. May you all remain safe and out of harm’s way.”