'Cauldron of Hell' as Fires Rage Across Washington State

Wildfires and Severe Storms Hit West Coast

In central Washington today, some residents returned to their neighborhoods to see what had been left behind after wildfires raced through the town of Pateros.

"It was a funnel of fire," David Brownless, whose home caught fire Thursday as he drove off, told The Associated Press.

Related: California residents face fines as state reduces water use. Watch: Dry conditions fuel wildfires in at least five states.

About 100 homes disappeared in minutes near Pateros. There were no reports of injuries.

The cluster of fires, sparked by lightning, forced more than 1,500 to evacuate, including hospital patients.

Rod Griffin, a fly-fishing guide, said the whole valley was in "disarray."

The fires that destroyed parts of Pateros were among 20 large wildfires that have scorched 500,000 acres, more than twice the size of New York City.

The Pacific Northwest, normally known for its damp and cool weather, has suffered blazing heat and drought conditions, perfect fodder for the fires burning through the region.

Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

"Last night, it really looked like a cauldron of hell," said Tim Germaine, who was forced to leave Leavenworth, Washington, about 100 miles to the south of Pateros, because of the Chiwaukum Creek Fire.

"You could see flames everywhere you looked," he said. "It was a mass exodus down here."

Drivers blinded by the smoke on an interstate caused a pileup that left nearly a dozen people injured.

Conditions are so extreme that firefighters in the Northwest are now asking for help from seven other states, including California.

California, however, has already been stretched thin this fire season, announcing this week that residents would be fined as much as $500 for illegal water use.

"It's terrible. It hurts the eyes. It hurts the throat," said Charlene Montour, a resident of Leavenworth. "It's terrible."

ABC News' Brandi Hitt and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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