Firefighter dies while combating wildfire near Wenatchee

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - A firefighter has died after falling ill while helping battle a blaze north of Wenatchee, officials said Tuesday, as crews struggled to contain dozens of wildfires throughout the state of Washington.

The timber faller working north of Entiat became ill on the fire line Monday afternoon and was transported to a hospital. The man, Chris Seelye of Darby, Mont., died later that evening, authorities said.

He was among more than 4,000 firefighters battling blazes that were sparked by lightning earlier this month in central Washington. Fires burning on more than 87 square miles were 22 percent contained.

Weak winds and stagnant conditions that have allowed smoke to hover over much of the region and impair air quality were expected to continue for several days. Hazardous air quality warnings were issued for Ellensburg and Wenatchee, where residents were advised to remain indoors, limit physical activity and close doors and windows.

Near the rural town of Liberty, about 25 miles northwest of Ellensburg, Gov. Chris Gregoire planned to visit residents and attend a community meeting Tuesday to reiterate evacuation warnings. The road leading to the town is one of several closed in the area.

Residents of about 130 homes have been ordered to evacuate in Kittitas County, though many have declined to leave their homes. Fires in the area have burned more than 6,000 acres, or more than 9 square miles.

Elsewhere on Tuesday:

-A cluster of fires in Yakima County and part of Kittitas County was 15 percent contained at 2,198 acres. Nearly 700 firefighters were assigned to those blazes.

-Nearly 500 firefighters worked to contain the Okanogan Complex of wildfires in Okanogan County, where about 60 homes were threatened. The fires have burned 4,711 acres, or about 7 square miles.

- The Cascade Creek Fire in Klickitat County covered 6,853 acres and was 10 percent contained.