A massive, wind-whipped wildfire continued to rapidly spread in Okanogan County in Central Washington today despite some signs of improvement.
The onset of cooler temperatures and the possibility of rain in the forecast raised hopes of controlling the fire that has destroyed scores of homes, Sheriff Frank Rogers said.
But winds reported at 35 mph fanned what is known as the Carlton Complex fire that started Monday with a lightning strike. As of mid afternoon, the expanding fire was burning over 215,153 acres, or about 336 square miles, and threatening 500 structures, up from 260 acres on Friday.
“I would say there’s zero containment right now,” Rogers said, emphasizing the unpredictable nature of spot fires burning throughout the county.
Active fires were burning around Twisp and Carlton.
Highway 20 remained closed east of Twisp in both directions from milepost 206 at Finley Canyon to milepost 215 at the Loup Loup Summit due to fire activity. There is no detour available and no estimated time of reopening, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Most of the Methow Valley remained without power.
Rogers said 80 to 100 homes have been lost and the number could climb to 200.
A fire burning south of Pateros threatened to enter Chelan, but was moving “pretty slow,” he said.
“It’s not that bad,” Rogers added.
No serious injuries have been reported, but there are a lot of dead cattle in the Chiliwist area west of Highway 97, he said.
One house was lost overnight in Malott, home to about 500 people north of Pateros, according to Rogers.
The fire, the largest of four wildfires in the state, has picked up on its north side closer to Winthrop, but winds have been erratic and were blowing the very active fire in different directions.
“The wind is just howling up there,” Rogers said.
The active fire was burning in an area that is more sparsely populated, with homes scattered throughout the woods and along the highway.
“There’s people who live all around up there,” he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, gusting winds and lightning.
Some 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.
Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state’s Military Department, said 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000 more in Yakima could receive additional fire training. Active duty military could be called in as well, Inslee said.
“This, unfortunately, is not going to be a one-day or one-week event,” he said.
The governors of both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows officials to call up the National Guard.
Fifteen large fires were reported throughout Oregon on Friday, burning across more than 565 square miles of timber, rangeland and grass. Dozens of homes were evacuated as incident-management teams and hotshot crews were brought in from at least nine states to supplement Oregon’s strained resources.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- Photo gallery
- Lightning, wind and high, dry grass: a recipe for conflagration
- ‘Pandemonium’ as blaze roars down hill to engulf Pateros
- Traveling east? Check first, as vacation areas hit hard by fires
- Major wildfires in Washington since 1990
- How you can help the fire victims
- Interactive map: active fires and road closures