Twisp evacuee: 'It just makes you think how short our lives are'
Identities of firefighters who perished in Twisp will be released lilkely Thursday
Update 10:30 p.m.: The three firefighters who died fighting a wildfire near Twisp Wednesday were engaged in initial attack operations and involved in a vehicle accident when it is believed the fire overtook the vehicle, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said in a news release issued this evening by the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forest.
Rogers told The World this evening that the firefighters’ next of kin are still being notified. The victims’ names will likely be released Thursday. All were U.S. Forest Service firefighters from the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forest, the news release said.
“We are devastated by the tragic loss of three of our Forest Service firefighters,” Mike Williams, forest supervisor of the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forest, said in the news release. “We are working with county and state partners to notify the families of those lost. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and fellow crewmembers of these brave firefighters.”
The deaths ocurred on state Department of Natural Resources land near Twisp, Rogers said in the news release. A Level 3 (get out now) evacuation notification had been issued near that area for Twisp and Winthrop, the news release said.
Four additional lfirefighters were injured, officials confirmed in the news release. One was with the U.S. Forest service, two with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and one with a DNR contractor.
A national incident management team has been ordered to manage the fire.
WINTHROP - Three firefighters have died and three to four were injured fighting a wildfire near Twisp on Wednesday. That wildfire was forcing evacuation of Twisp and Winthrop late Wednesday afternoon.
The dead firefighters were from the Methow Valley, said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers. They were part of an initial fire response to a wildfire that started shortly after noon up Woods Canyon Road, which is off the Twisp River Road. That area is about five miles west of Twisp. The firefighters got trapped up Woods Canyon Road and were unable to escape the fire.
Okanogan County Emergency Management officials said the order to evacuate Twisp and Winthrop went out at 4:28 p.m. Wednesday.
No flames were visible from Twisp at 6 p.m. Wednesday, but a big plume of smoke could be seen to the west.
Firefighters from around the region were rolling into Twisp at 6 p.m. Wednesday. One crew, ASP Fire out of Eugene, Ore., was just reassigned from the Chelan area fires. Firefighter Chris Morris said he just learned of the three deaths. “It makes me want to fight the fire more, in honor of them.”
Residents of Twisp and Winthrop are advised to head south out of their towns. A Red Cross shelter is available in Brewster at the middle/high school, 503 S. Seventh St.
From Winthrop, residents were advised to travel south on the Eastside Road past the smoke-jumper base, then head southeast on Highway 20/Highway 153 to the Red Cross shelter in Brewster. Motorists are asked not to go from Winthrop to Twisp directly on Highway 20, which would add to traffic congestion in Twisp.
Gov. Jay Inslee also confirmed the deaths and injures and said in a press statement: “My heart breaks over the loss of life. I know all Washington joins me and Trudi in sending our prayers to the families of these brave firefighters. They gave their lives to protect others.”
Wenatchee World reporter K.C. Mehaffey was in Twisp Wednesday evening and will be reporting on the situation.