DENVER (CBS4) – Thousands of people have been evacuated because of the dozens of wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest. The situation is so bad that Colorado crews are crossing state lines to aid in the fight.
More than 250 square miles have burned just in the state of Washington and dozens of homes have been destroyed.
“It’s hell on Earth and it won’t stop,” said an Okanagan, Washington resident said.
For the first time in the state of Washington’s history authorities are asking for volunteers to help fight the fires. Sixty-eight uncontained wildfires are burning in seven states. President Obama signed an emergency declaration allowing federal resources to move in.
There are 3,000 firefighters on the ground in Washington and 200 active duty soldiers also joined the fight this weekend along with a team of firefighters from Australia and New Zealand. The Denver Fire Department sent 51 firefighters and one engine to help fight the fires.
“The terrain we were dealing with was very dangerous, a lot of burned out trees, we had trees falling every day,” said Capt. Ted Christopoulous of South Metro Fire.
Christopoulous came back Thursday from a two-week tour in Northern California. Ten other South Metro firefighters are still in Washington, the same area where three firefighters were killed just days ago. The captain called South Metro to make sure his firefighting friends were safe.
“Which took about five or six hours to do that, so it was a little tense for a little while,” Christopoulous said.
The hot and dry conditions are reminiscent of recent devastating fires in Colorado.
“The Black Forest Fire and the year before that with Waldo Canyon Fire with our activity and our resources being stretched so thin and not being able to attack the fire the way you want to,” Christopoulous said.
The captain might have to go back to the Pacific Northwest .
“Summertime for our families is a lot of separation and a little bit of anxiety while we’re gone, but it’s always nice to come home for sure,” Christopoulous said.
Christopoulous said he worked 16 hour days during the two weeks he fought the fires.
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Living With Wildfire section.
Wildfire Photo Galleries
– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.