SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- A sheriff in the thick of a destructive
wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles of north-central
Washington is encouraged by cooler weather and calming winds that are
helping firefighters attack the stubborn blaze.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers says fire crews quickly attacked
a new fire east of Tonasket on Monday. A half-dozen homes were briefly
evacuated, but the fire burned past them with no destruction.
Residents of a couple of dozen additional rural homes were told to
leave Monday, but Rogers says that was really just a precaution.
The sheriff says cooler temperatures and higher humidity continue to
be in the forecast, but unfortunately the area is also on "lightning
watch" Tuesday through Thursday. In his words, "We don't need any more
The Carlton Complex of fires has burned about 379 square miles and
destroyed an estimated 150 homes. The fire is being blamed for one
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Calmer winds and cooler temperatures were allowing firefighters to go
on the offensive Monday against a destructive wildfire that has charred
hundreds of square miles of terrain in Washington State and is the
largest in state history.
The Carlton Complex of fires in north-central Washington had burned
about 379 square miles, fire spokesman Andrew Sanbri said Monday. That
would make it the largest wildfire in the state since record-keeping
"There is optimism in the air, but we don't want to give the impression that all is good," Sanbri said. "Things are improving."
The fire was just 2 percent contained Monday.
But the news was not all good. The Okanogan County Sheriff's Office
announced mandatory evacuations Monday afternoon of rural areas south of
Highway 20 between the towns of Twisp and Okanogan. That included the
small town of Carlton. It was not immediately clear how many homes were
involved in the evacuations.
Highway 20 was also closed because of fire activity
At 243,000 acres, the Carlton Complex was larger than the Yacolt
Burn, which consumed 238,920 acres in southwestern Washington in 1902
and is the largest recorded forest fire in state history, according to HistoryLink.org, an online resource of Washington state history. The Yacolt Burn killed 38 people.
Firefighters planned to aggressively protect houses near Libby Creek
on Monday by keeping the flames from jumping the waterway, Sanbri said.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers has estimated that 150 homes have
been destroyed already, but he suspected that number could rise. The
fire is being blamed for one death.
Firefighters on Monday had also planned to burn fuel on the north
side of the fire to help build a fire line, but that operation was
canceled, fire spokesman Don Carpenter said.
Firefighters were hampered by the loss of electricity in the area,
thanks to downed power lines and poles, which hurt communications. There
was no estimate on when utilities would be restored.
The forecast for Monday and Tuesday called for lighter winds and
lower temperatures, said Spokane-based National Weather Service
meteorologist Greg Koch.
Then on Wednesday a vigorous front is expected to cover Washington,
bringing rain to much of the state. But it will also bring lightning,
"The benefits of the system are still up in the air," he said. "We
may get some rain where we need it, but we may also experience some
lightning that could cause some new ignitions."
The fire has created smoky conditions and reduced air quality in much of eastern Washington and northern Idaho.
One man has died of an apparent heart attack while fighting the fire near his home, Rogers said.
Rob Koczewski, 67, was stricken on Saturday while he and his wife
were hauling water and digging fire lines near their home. Koczewski was
a retired Washington State Patrol trooper and U.S. Marine, Rogers said.
There are more than 1,600 firefighters battling the flames, assisted
by more than 100 fire engines, helicopters dropping buckets of water and
planes spreading flame retardant, Sanbri said.
Many towns in the scenic Methow Valley remain without power and have
limited landline and cellphone service. Fully restoring power to the
area could take weeks, Okanogan County Public Utility District officials
A total of 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000
more in Yakima could receive additional fire training, said Karina
Shagren, spokeswoman for the state's Military Department. Active-duty
military could be called in as well, Inslee said.