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Some homeowners defy evacuation, fight wildfire on their own

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OMAK, Wash. -- The Okanogan Complex fire has exploded, doubling in size to more than 160,000 acres.

Some homeowners defied evacuation notices to save what they can on their own.

“It`s awful,” said Mystery Herriman. “I don`t ever remember seeing Omak burn like this and I`ve lived here my whole life.”

Herriman and her neighbors kept watch on a small fire before Cole Tincher’s home, and kept a shovel at the ready.

Firefighters cannot be everywhere so the group did what they could to protect their neighborhood.

“Resources are stretched thin,” said Tincher. “We all come together when we have to.”

When the fire flared up, they got to work kicking down the flames with shovels, boots and a plow attached to a pickup truck.

“Everybody`s stretched so thin around here right now,” said Herriman. “It`s just what we do, we go out there and protect our own, our friends, everything.”

The massive wildfire is too big for firefighters to save every structure.

“A couple days ago we were just over 400 personnel on the fire and now we`re up just over 800,” said public information officer Rick Scriven. “However the fire has also doubled to just over 160,000 acres.”

Helicopters doused what flames they could, but some homeowners chose to risk their lives to save property on their own.

“That`s just how it is right now,” said Melissa Maple. “Everybody`s carrying a shovel around and checking with each other and if you see something you can help with you do it.”

Herriman found the strength to keep watch at her neighbor’s home, even though her own house burned to the ground. Somehow her friends and family saved a barn on her property.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. Because of the distance between our house and the barn, there`s nothing you can do.”

In the face of danger and flames neighbors hope to save not only what`s left of their property but also each other.

“I`d do it for them if we had to,” said Tincher. ”That`s how we work.”

For the latest on the Okanogan County fires, click here.