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July 30, 2014 at 6:23 AM

Photos: Picturing the devastation of fire country

Scorched earth lines Highway 97 between Okanogan and Brewster.

Scorched earth lines Highway 97 between Okanogan and Brewster. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

Southern Okanogan County, devastated by wildfire over the last two weeks, has the look of a war zone right after the combat has finished. The front has moved on, leaving ruined homes, blackened earth and the smell of smoke.

A ruined chimney is all that remains of a Pateros home.

Ruined chimney is all that remains of a Pateros home. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

I took a drive through the area last weekend and found plenty of evidence of the pitched battle that raged after lightning July 14 touched off the Carlton Complex fire. Worst-hit is the town of Pateros, at the confluence of the Methow and Columbia rivers. Approximately 25 percent of the homes within the city limits and the area immediately surrounding the city were destroyed. Devastation was near-complete at the Alta Lake Golf Course just outside the city, where Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers counts 52 homes burned. He counts another 30 within the city limits, and a county-wide total of 300, from the Methow Valley to Brewster. He cautions that his numbers are neither precise nor complete: The complete picture of devastation is only beginning to emerge. “It’s so hard,” he says.

 

And anyone who walks the empty streets snapping pictures of the devastation and damage — the burned-out foundations, the melted mailboxes, the toppled power poles — can imagine the chaos of that night, and perhaps feel a bit uncomfortable, as the sense of human tragedy sinks in.

Check out The Seattle Times editorial published on July 23: “State’s wildfires a reminder of nature’s force”

Twisted wreckage marks mobile home park in heart of town.

Twisted wreckage marks mobile home park in heart of town. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

 

Looters will be shot.

Looters will be shot. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

Chopper draws water in the Methow River.

Chopper draws water in the Methow River. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

Scene in Methow: "We love our firefighters."

Scene in Methow: “We love our firefighters.” (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

Welcome to Okanogan National Forest.

Welcome to Okanogan National Forest. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

Blackened trunks and browning needles.

Blackened trunks and browning needles. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

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