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New aerial view shows 64 buildings burned in wildfire near Satus Pass in Washington state
GOLDENDALE, Wash. (AP) ' A new aerial view of a wildfire on Friday showed that 64 buildings have been lost to the blaze that continues to burn uncontrolled near Satus Pass in Washington, fire officials said Friday.
About 200 homes and hundreds of residents are evacuated because of the blaze, which started Wednesday and has burned more than 8 square miles of tinder-dry forest north of Goldendale. The aerial count did not show exactly how many of the burned structures were homes, but fire officials had earlier confirmed nine houses burned, spokesman Guy Giffords said.
Heavy smoke from the blaze blanketed the region early Friday. As the smoke lifted, so did temperatures, and firefighters were enduring hot, dry conditions on the fire lines.
Washington is experiencing an especially late start to its fire season following a winter with heavy snows and a cool spring.
Warm, dry weather is forecast to continue at least through the weekend. The National Weather Service said a high-pressure system over the Northwest should last a few days, with cooler temperatures returning later Monday.
About 300 firefighters are fighting the blaze. There is no estimate when it might be contained. A fire incident commander described the fire to the evacuees as "a greased pig rodeo," blown first in one direction, then another by shifting winds.
Traffic on U.S. Highway 97 has been closed intermittently by smoke and fire. A community meeting is planned Friday night at Goldendale High School.
There were no reports of any injuries.
Ramon Dotson, 37, moved to the area just eight months ago and was evacuated from his home. He said he remains hopeful that the winds won't kick up the fire, but he's also sorry for those who already lost their homes.
"It's such a sorry time for them," Dotson said. "I have so much sympathy."
Gov. Chris Gregoire met Thursday night with about 50 of the displaced residents. She assured them that the state would do everything it can to protect their homes and property despite a budget crunch.
"The thing I want people to know when they're evacuated from their homes is we are not going to be cheap about protecting their property," Gregoire said at the Klickitat County fairgrounds, where the Red Cross has set up an evacuation center under the grandstands.
The fire was believed to have started along U.S. Highway 97 across the street from the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner. The 19 nuns and employees who operate a well-known bakery there saw flames and immediately ran outside with water, rakes and rags to try to beat back the fire.