Three U.S. Forest Service firefighters were killed and four others were injured Wednesday as they battled a wildfire.
The deaths and injuries come during a very difficult wildfire season in the Northwest United States.
The firefighters died as the result of a fire that forced numerous evacuations in Twisp and Winthrop in north-central Washington. The fire was quickly advancing, according to the Okanogan County Emergency Management Agency.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers confirmed the deaths around 5:30 p.m. PDT, according to KREM-TV in Spokane.
Rogers called the fire a "hell storm," as it raced along the countrysideKXLY-TV reported.
Winds have been light in the region with about 5 to 10 mph winds around Winthrop but that's deceiving because wildfires will create their own weather, AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis said.
"The forecast for Thursday is going to be pretty similar to Wednesday: dry, lots of hazy sun because of the smoke, still hot and winds 7 to 14 mph," Travis said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee offered his condolences for the firefighters.
"They gave their lives to protect others. It was their calling, but the loss for their families is immense and I know the community will come together to support them," the governor said in a written statement.
"We will also keep the injured firefighters in our prayers. The conditions throughout the area remain extremely dangerous and I hope residents and visitors will heed evacuation orders or other emergency directions."
My deepest condolences & thoughts are w/ the families of 3 firefighters who lost their lives protecting others battling the Twisp fire. -PM— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) August 20, 2015
Inslee also asked President Barack Obama to issue a federal emergency declaration for his state as a result of the fires.
"Communities in Eastern Washington are strong and coming together, but need help," Inslee said. "The current fires will exacerbate the ongoing housing shortages and economic troubles felt throughout the region. We're doing everything we can to assess the damage and work with our partners to obtain additional federal assistance."
If approved, declaration would make financial assistance available to Washington state, eligible local jurisdictions and private non-profit organizations, Inslee said.
The assistance could be used to pay for costs of emergency protective measures, emergency response, and debris removal. The federal government would reimburse 75 percent of eligible costs. The declaration would also provide direct federal assistance from federal agencies.