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U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visits north-central Washington to tour wildfire

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OMAK, Wash. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is in Washington state Monday to get a firsthand account of a wildfire that has torched about 320 square miles in north-central Washington.

Jewell met with fire managers and leaders with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation before setting off to tour the fire lines of the North Star blaze. That fire burning north of Coulee Dam is about 37 percent contained.

In a telephone interview, Jewell said tribal leaders told her how devastating the fire is, particularly because they rely on forest products.

Jewell says there weren’t enough resources until recently to fight that blaze because too many fires burning across the West have strained resources.

She says she wanted to thank firefighters and see what’s happening on the ground so she can make a case to Congress to change how the government pays for fighting wildfires. The Obama administration wants it to treat some fires as federal disasters.