1 of 2
Colin Mulvany, AP photo, The Spokesman-Review
After failing to find his missing deaf and blind dog, Jim Gibbard is escorted away from his fully involved house at 9700 E. 24th Ave. in Spokane Valley, Wash., by neighbor Jeri Hughes.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A 1,200-acre wildfire fanned by winds gusting to 50 mph has destroyed at least eight homes in a heavily wooded part of the suburban Spokane Valley.

More than 200 residents were evacuated.

The Spokesman-Review reported early Friday that the fast-moving flames had burned at least eight homes. The heavy smoke and tree cover made it difficult to assess the damage over nearly 2 square miles.

The fire, which started Thursday afternoon, remained out of control, preventing officials from making a good estimate of the losses, Spokane County sheriff's spokesman Dave Reagan said. About 100 firefighters were deployed.

Gov. Chris Gregoire flew to Spokane and visited the fire command center late Thursday, and said she had given verbal approval for declaration of emergency requests from Spokane and Ferry counties. That will make state resources available as needed, she said.

"We have planes ready to go first thing in the morning, depending on winds," she said.

Gregoire flew to Wenatchee earlier in the day, and then hustled to Spokane, flying over numerous fires in Eastern Washington.

"Virtually from Wenatchee east, it's a pretty smoky cloud," she said.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or fatalities.

The cause of the Spokane Valley fire was not immediately known.

Many people stayed near their homes as the flames approached.

"It's a fact of life living in Washington state," a man identified only as Joe told KHQ-TV.

In 1991, a firestorm destroyed 114 homes in the same area.

Wildfires were also reported burning in Ferry, Lincoln, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties in northeast Washington.

Wildfires elsewhere in Eastern Washington advanced across rough terrain, burning nearly 9 square miles.

Flames and heavy smoke could be seen just a few yards from the lawns of luxury homes in the Dishman Hills, a wooded, natural area on the east edge of Spokane.

The Red Cross set up evacuation centers at University High School in the Spokane Valley and North Central High School in Spokane. An evacuation center for horses was set up at the Spokane County Fairgrounds.

The winds knocked out power to about 1,000 homes in the Spokane area and about 6,000 homes in Colville, in northeast Washington, Avista Corp. spokeswoman Catherine Markson said. Winds in Colville gusted to 55 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Twelve spot fires were sparked in that town in just an hour as the winds brought down power lines, Assistant Colville Fire Chief Joe Floener said.

The town's 32 firefighters were stretched thin, but had all the fires under control by late Thursday night, he said.

At the peak of the windstorm, about 8,900 Avista customers in Eastern Washington and north Idaho lost power, Markson said.

Near Tonasket, just south of the U.S.-Canada border, firefighters on the Cayuse Fire were battling steep terrain, rattlesnakes and winds gusting to 30 mph, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Robin DeMario.

Evacuation orders were lifted for eight homes there late Thursday, but residents of another 11 homes remained on notice they might have to flee. That fire has burned at least 1,000 acres. No structures have burned, and nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene.

Residents of more than three dozen condominiums and homes waited and watched as another fire pushed toward a golf course near the town of Orondo, about 20 miles north of Wenatchee in northcentral Washington.

Authorities alerted residents of some 40 condos to be aware of the fire, which was moving toward the Desert Canyon Golf Course. About 2,000 acres already had burned late Thursday, with 50 firefighters assigned to the fire, DeMario said.

Both of those fires started Wednesday.

Crews gained ground on the nearby Badger Creek Fire, also north of Wenatchee, which has burned 4 square miles but was 60 percent contained late Thursday. About 125 people were assigned to the blaze, which started Tuesday.