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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

July 17, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Methow Valley homes destroyed, others threatened as fires grow around state

This is an aerial view of the Chiwaukum Creek fire burning about 25 miles north of Leavenworth. (Photo by James Price, Air Tactical Group Commander)

The Chiwaukum Creek fire is burning about 25 miles north of Leavenworth. It is one of several wildfires burning around the state (Photo by James Price, Air Tactical Group Commander) See photo gallery

Update |  6:05 p.m.:
A total of four wildfires in the Methow Valley have claimed at least two primary homes, a fire spokesman said.
Since lightning ignited a fire near Stokes Road in Carlton on Sunday night, the Carlton Complex fire has spread to 18,000 acres and includes the Cougar Flat fire, the Golden Hike fire and the French Creek fire.

The two destroyed homes were in Carlton and the Fringe Creek area, said Jacob McCann, spokesman for the Carlton Complex fire. Although unconfirmed, he said at least eight other structures may have also been damaged.

“It’s really been a rapidly changing situation today,” said McCann, adding that at least 500 local, state and federal personnel are combating the fires.

McCann said a large portion of the valley is under Level 3 evacuation, including areas south of Carlton and east of Winthrop near Cougar Flat, where Okanogan County Sheriff’s deputies are going door-to-door and urging residents to evacuate, McCann said.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Twisp Valley Grange for displaced residents. Residents can also seek shelter at Pateros High School, 344 Beach St. in Pateros, McCann said.

Additionally, Highway 20 is closed east of Twisp in both directions from milepost 206 at Finley Canyon to milepost 215 at the Loup Loup Pass Summit. Highway 153 is also shut down from milepost 6 in Carleton to milepost 21 in Pateros in both directions.

Fires threaten most of central and eastern Washington as the state continues to experience dry and hot conditions, ripe for wildfires. In Chelan County,  the lighting-cause fire at Chiwaukum Creek west of Leavenworth had grown from 300 acres to 6,600 acres earlier today.

For tourists in Bavarian-themed Leavenworth, the growing wildfire burning 25 miles away was a chance to take photos of smoke drifting against blue skies and to joke about the gray ashes randomly falling from the sky.

But while a mother pushed her baby in a stroller and tourists were enjoying breakfast, residents in 860 homes 14 miles to the north, at a development called Ponderosa Estates, were under a “Level 3” evacuation notice.

“Level 1 is ‘Get ready and get stuff packed,’ Level 2 is ‘Get set,’ and Level 3 is ‘Go!’ explained Stan Hinatsu, spokesman for the multi-agency incident management team battling the fire.

Hinatsu compared winds of 10 to 15 miles an hour, and temperatures in the upper 90s in the mountains, to a fireplace. You close the flue, and it chokes off the oxygen. But in this wildfire, “There is plenty of oxygen with the winds,” said Hinatsu.

The fire is sending large volumes of smoke into the air. there are reports that some ash is drift as are as Leavenworth, 25 miles away.

The fire is sending large volumes of smoke into the air and there are reports that some ash is drifting as far as Leavenworth, 25 miles away. (Photo by James Price, Air Tactical Group Commander)

Crews also fought two other wildfires in the Entiat Valley about 40 miles east of Leavenworth. One was a 22,570-acre fire at Mill Canyon that was 40 percent “contained,” said the incident team, and the other a 65-acre fire at Kelly Mountain that was so remote it’d require smoke jumpers. The incident team, the Kelly Mountain fire was so high up that “it didn’t have a whole lot of potential for spread.”

Meanwhile, at Leavenworth motels, they were fielding calls from tourists who had scheduled visits, and some were leaving early.


Seattle Times staff reporter Erik Lacitis reported from Leavenworth and reporters Colleen Wright and Jack Broom reported from Seattle.



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