Extreme danger, health hazard, immediate evacuations, not contained at all, no significant rain any time in the near future.
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September 20, 2012, By Miguel Llanos, NBC News
Chunks of flying, burning bark cause new evacuations in Washington wildfires
Crews on Thursday were battling a fire that forced dozens of eastern Washington residents to flee overnight with their valuables -- and some even with livestock in trailers. The evacuations add to the hundreds of people who earlier evacuated across the region due to fires raging over the last few weeks.
The new evacuations, this time in the Mission Ridge area near Wenatchee, came as eight-inch chunks of burning bark were reported to have fallen in Mission Ridge. Those chunks were coming from an explosive fire inside the Table Mountain Complex some six miles away, a fire incident spokesman said.
"There are indicators of extreme fire behavior and residents of these areas are strongly advised to leave the closure area as soon as possible," the incident team said in a statement.
The Table Mountain Fire Complex is actually four fires that have so far burned 9,500 acres within the Wenatchee National Forest. The fires, and dozens of others in eastern Washington, were started by lightning earlier this month.
A second Table Mountain fire on Wednesday caused the closure of Highway 97 for much of the day.
The complex of fires was just 4 percent contained on Thursday morning.
In Liberty, a town of several dozen that's just two miles from one of the Table Mountain fires, some residents were preparing to leave if an evacuation order is issued.
"This time we're watching it pretty close, real close," Larry Smith told NBC affiliate KING5.com as he and his wife packed up.
But Paul Heit told KING5.com that he wasn't packing just yet.
"If I see flames coming over the hill and it's coming 80 miles per hour," he said, "yeah, I'll probably leave."
Some 5,000 firefighters are battling the eastern Washington fires, the largest of which is the Wenatchee Complex at nearly 40,000 acres. Nearly 2,000 firefighters have been deployed there but that complex of fires is just 12 percent contained.
The fires have created bad air quality for residents, especially in Cashmere, where the school district suspended classes for the week as a result.
Heavy dust has also covered parts of the region. Some locals have even said the conditions are worse than when the Mount St. Helens volcano blew in 1980, sending ash across the state.