Wildfires still rage as officials find hope in slightest relief
OKANOGAN COUNTY — As crews continue to battle the massive Carlton Complex Fire that has burned more than 215,000 acres and up to 100 homes, hope is sought in even the slightest hints of good news.
Less than 24 hours after the towns of Brewster and Malott were evacuated Friday, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he sees a slight respite in the weather and hopes it will calm the massive blaze.
“The fire is slowing down, but still really active,” Rogers said Saturday morning.
Rogers said cooler weather has helped stall the flames slightly, and official were able to open State Route 153 and US Highway 97 at times throughout the day.
But 20-25 MPH winds persisted, continuing to hamper relief efforts.
The Carlton Complex Fire, the largest in the state, started July 14 after a lighting weather system moved through the dry Methow Valley. The fires have burned around 215,000 acres of dry grass and dozens of homes, decimating the small town of Peteros Thursday night.
Friday was another challenging day for fire crews, as a number of evacuations were ordered as the fire began to race toward the small Eastern Washington towns. Gov. Jay Inslee and other high-ranking state officials toured the area, ordering more than 100 National Guard troops into assistance, the first time the guard has been pulled to help fight fires since 1994.
Now, as chilling temperatures calm the fire, firefighters are working with property owners to help reduce vegetation and remove debris around threatened homes. Crews were also working hard to restore power to much of the area.
Highway 97, Highway 20 and highway 153 were still being closed intermittently near the fire.
All in all, about 2,000 firefighters are on the ground as 12 helicopters from DNR and the National Guard fight the flames from above. An unknown number of people remain evacuated, as the town of Malot remains under Level 2 and 3 evacuations; and Twisp, Brewster and Pateros still under various evacuation levels.
A command post has been set up in the area with Okanogan, Douglas, Chelan, and Grant County Emergency Management, officials said. Additional state mobilization resources have arrived for structure protection. The Omak Fellowship Church, the Wintrop Red Barn and Chelan High School are all taking in evacuations.
Still no fatalities have been reported in the blaze.
The Saddle Mountain Fire in Kittitas County continued to burn near the Columbia River Saturday, and many areas were under a Level 3 evacuation notice.
Originally 69 people were stranded at the Auvil Fruit Company, however, 53 of those people either self-evacuated or were escorted out by law enforcement via Huntzinger Road. Sixteen people remain in place at Auvil Fruit as of today. The people were not trapped, but chose to stay their on their own, officials said.
No injuries have been reported at this time, but at least six structures were lost in the blaze.
Across the Canadian border, many evacuation orders were lifted Saturday.