(SEATTLE) — Homeowners forced to evacuate recently because of a rapidly moving wildfire in Washington state returned Tuesday to find that the blaze had burned so hot that few of their belongings remained or were even recognizable.
“[It] looks like a war zone,” Diane Reed told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV. “I’ve never seen anything like it … To just sit back and think, I don’t even have a fork or a plate or clothing — just your basic things that we all take for granted. It’s just gone.”
The grass fire started Sunday on a remote hillside outside of Wenatchee, Washington.
Fueled by triple-digit temperatures — Wenatchee had a record high of 109 on Sunday — as well as strong winds, the blaze exploded, making its way quickly into residential and commercial areas, outpacing firefighting teams. Thousands of residents were told to leave their homes as firefighting teams went door-to-door.
Rainfall provided some relief Monday but in the end, at least 24 homes were reportedly burned to the ground and four businesses were destroyed. Nearly 3,000 acres were scorched.
Vern and Julie Smith said they barely had time to react to evacuation orders before the fires reached their property. Their home was lost to the blaze Monday.
“You grab your family, kids and our animals,” Julie Smith told KOMO-TV. “We stayed with friends across the Wenatchee River and watched this area burn all night.”
Julie Smith said, though, that not all was lost.
“What made our house a home was our love and what we’ve done together,” she said.
On Tuesday, a scorched hillside remained as well as the some of the hoses left behind by firefighters.
Wenatchee, a town with a population of 30,000, suffered a double whammy. As fire ripped through neighborhoods and burning embers ignited several large businesses downtown, nearly half the city was ordered to shelter in place after an industrial fire and ammonia leak released a dangerous smoke plume.
Strike teams continued to pounce on hotspots Tuesday around the city but many residents said they worried that the worst may not be behind them.
“I think the worst is over, but you have to be vigilant,” one resident said.
No residents were injured in the wildfire. Fire officials were still investigating the cause.
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