Obama Declares Washington's 250,000-Acre Wildfire An Emergency

Firefighter Kathleen Calvin sits atop her fire truck as smoke from a wildfire fills the sky in Winthrop, Washington. Firefighter Kathleen Calvin sits atop her fire truck as smoke from a wildfire fills the sky in Winthrop, Washington. Elaine Thompson/AP

President Obama signed an emergency declaration Wednesday, providing federal support to help contain the largest set of wildfires in Washington state's history

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security will coordinate relief efforts and provide equipment to manage the 400-square-mile blaze, which has destroyed 150 homes in north-central Washington.   More than 1,600 firefighters have contained 16 percent of the fire, up from 2 percent on Monday. 

Speaking at a fundraiser shortly after arriving in Seattle on Tuesday, Obama attributed the wildfire to changing conditions brought on by climate change. 

"A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns, and a lot of that has to do with climate change," Obama said of the fire. 

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area, noting that areas affected by the fires could be overrun by short periods of heavy rain. 

IT TAKES AS LITTLE AS TEN MINUTES OF HEAVY RAIN TO CAUSE FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS IN AND BELOW AREAS AFFECTED BY WILDFIRES. RAIN RUNS OFF ALMOST INSTANTLY FROM BURNED SOILS...CAUSING CREEKS AND DRAINAGES TO FLOOD AT A MUCH FASTER RATE THAN NORMAL. SOILS IN A BURN SCAR CAN ALSO BECOME UNSTABLE WHEN IT RAINS...SOMETIMES RESULTING IN DEBRIS FLOWS AND FALLING ROCK. RUSHING WATER AND DEBRIS...INCLUDING TREES AND ROCKS...CAN DAMAGE OR DESTROY CULVERTS... BRIDGES...ROADS...AND BUILDINGS. FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOW PATHS ARE UNPREDICTABLE AND CAN AFFECT LOCATIONS THAT ARE MILES AWAY FROM A BURNED AREA."

The Carlton Complex Fire, which started as four smaller fires on July 14, merged Thursday and has expanded to more than four times the size of the city of Seattle. 

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