The Latest: ‘Unprecedented Cataclysm’ From Washington Fires

August 20, 2015 Updated: August 22, 2015

CHELAN, Wash.— The latest on wildfires in Washington state that killed three firefighters (all times local):

11:20 a.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington is facing an “unprecedented cataclysm” from the many fires raging across the dry state.

At a Thursday news conference with fire officials in central Washington, Inslee praised the courage of the 3,000 firefighters battling wildfires in the state. He says the state was grieving three firefighters killed Wednesday near Twisp, words echoed by Washington’s U.S. senators and fire managers.

Inslee says the fires “have burned a big hole in our state’s heart.”

The governor says more than 450 square miles were burning in the state this year, an increase from about 390 square miles last year.

Fire officials warned that winds topping 40 miles per hour would complicate efforts Thursday and that the blazes would almost certainly spread.

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10:56 a.m.

Authorities say three firefighters killed and four injured were overrun by flames as they battled blazes in the same area of Washington state.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers says the three who died were in a vehicle that crashed but that the “crash did not kill them.” His office was investigating the scene Thursday, then will turn it over to federal investigators, who will try to determine how the fire overran the firefighters.

Rogers says homes burned Wednesday night in the Twisp and Winthrop areas, about 115 miles northeast of Seattle, but he did not know how many.

He says it was “a nightmare” that night and that “everything was burning.”

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9:50 a.m.

A firefighter critically injured battling blazes in Washington state has burns over about 60 percent of his body.

Officials at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said Thursday he is a 25-year-old man from Puyallup.

Three firefighters were killed Wednesday and three others injured as crews fought raging wildfires advancing on towns in the north-central part of the state, some of the many blazes burning uncontrolled throughout the arid West.

It’s unclear if all the casualties happened in the same area.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was scheduled to speak Thursday morning after getting a briefing from fire officials.