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Washington fire sparked by fatal plane crash burns buildings

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SEATTLE » A wildfire ignited by a deadly plane crash in a rugged area of northern Washington state chased hundreds of people from their homes Friday and burned 10 to 12 buildings, including residences, authorities said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency planned to send funding to help combat the blaze charring remote, dry land near Oroville, a small town close to the Canadian border. More than 400 people were evacuated, and 660 homes were threatened as winds picked up, officials said.

The 4.7-square-mile fire also posed a risk to roads, bridges, power and gas lines, and several private businesses in a state struggling with drought, which has made the parched terrain combustible.

The Obama administration said wildfires have been so bad this season that the Forest Service will exhaust its firefighting budget next week and will again have to tap into other programs for more money.

Tory King, a customer service worker at the Princess Center grocery store in downtown Oroville, said smoke has filled the town.

"All we can see here is smoke," she said.

A Cessna 182 crashed and sparked the fire that spread to the Canadian border. A body was found in the aircraft Thursday after crews responding to the blaze discovered the wreckage.

Local authorities hoped to get close enough Friday to see if there were any other victims, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration also went to the site to try to identify the aircraft and investigate the crash.

"The plane was destroyed in the fire, so there were no numbers left to get a positive ID on the aircraft," Rogers said. "It was so hot that we couldn’t get an identification."

Officials expected high winds in the remote region to fan the flames, said Josie Williams, spokeswoman for the Washington Incident Management Team No. 2. Most of the state is under a red-flag warning, meaning the temperatures are high and the landscape is crispy dry, Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Janet Pierce said.

An evacuation shelter has been set up at Oroville High School.

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