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Wildfires in central Washington force evacuations

WATERVILLE, Wash. (AP) — Officials in central Washington are encouraging about 100 people to leave their homes Sunday in the path of a fast-growing wildfire.

The Douglas County sheriff’s office issued evacuation notices Sunday morning for people living in the Palisades and Rimrock neighborhoods of Waterville, but the Rimrock evacuations were canceled later in the day.

About 300 structures are still threatened, but not all are homes people are currently occupying, fire spokesman Jeff Sevigny said. Some of the buildings are vacation homes.

Those in the area should not wait for an evacuation notice, however, and move their family to safety if they see the fire getting closer, Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal told KING-TV (http://is.gd/BmdxjJ).

The Douglas County complex of fires, which started Friday evening, has grown to cover about 30 square miles, fire officials said. No structures have been destroyed by the two fires that officials believe were started by lightning.

Five lightning strikes started five fires on Friday night, but the wildfires have grown together and are now considered two fires, Gjesdal said.

The bigger fire –the one threatening homes — was burning in brush, grass and sage about 10 miles southeast of Waterville.

About 300 people from multiple local and state agencies were fighting the Douglas County fires on Sunday, with aircraft and other firefighting equipment. The fire was about 10 percent contained as of late Sunday afternoon.

The level of fire danger in many areas of Washington state remains very high or extreme.

An unusually dry winter, combined with hot, dry weather early in the summer, has made the area especially susceptible to wildfires, Gjesdal said.

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