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Update: Carlton Complex continues to grow in all directions

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RELATED STORY

More than 100 fire victims at Red Cross shelters

Paschal Sherman Indian School, near Omak, also offering shelter to wildfire victims.

Updated 5 p.m.: Level 3 evacuations (get out now) have been ordered for 129 homes in the Antoine Creek area. The southwest edge of the Carlton Complex fires is encroaching. Some 150 fire personnel with two bulldozers and helicopters are battling that edge, a Chelan County Sheriff’s official says. 

 

Updated 4:30 p.m.

The southwest edge of the Carlton Complex fires is about 9.4 miles from the city of Chelan, but some 150 fire personnel with two bulldozers and helicopters are battling the leading edge, near Antoine Creek, a Chelan County Sheriff’s official says. Evacuation in the fire area remain at Level 2 (be ready to leave) and are expected to stay that way for now.

 

Updated: 2:45 p.m:

WINTHROP — The enormous footprint of the four wildfires that form Okanogan County’s Carlton Complex have grown to 215,000 acres, as crews brace for more wind-pushed growth today in tinder dry conditions.

The lightning-caused fires devoured additional homes Friday, although crews have yet to tally how many, fire spokesman Jim Archambeault said this afternoon. 

Between 80 to 100 homes have burned since Thursday evening, when the fire made a wild run through Pateros, and Friday evening when it threatened Brewster and burned at least one home in Malott.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said this morning that lots of livestock has been lost, but he’s had no reports of human injuries, misplaced people, or deaths. 

The only good news, Archambeault said, is cooler temperatures forecast through the weekend and slightly higher humidity.

I’ve heard of some close calls,” he said of last-minute evacuations. “When it does come time to pull out, it’s a frantic, frantic scene. Instead of going when they’re told, people are waiting until flames are at their doorstep.”

The fire is most active to the south and east, he said, but it continues to spread in all directions because of erratic winds and flying embers and land and start new fires.

Personnel and equipment

Fire crews today expect a “significant” shift in the wind toward the southwest — the direction of Lake Chelan —  so they’re working to hold the fire’s western flanks.

Some 760 personnel are on the fire with equipment that includes at least 15 helicopters, a “CL415 scooper plane” and a converted DC10  tanker that’s dropping fire retardant. 

The state’s National Guard has also been mobilized. Two of the helicopters are Black Hawks provided by the National Guard, he said.

Teams are battling the fire from three zones — the Methow Valley, the southern area near Pateros and also near the city of Okanogan, he said. Structure protection is their focus, by working with property owners to help reduce vegetation and remove debris.

Highway Closures

Multiple road closures are in effect and closures can change quickly due to the fire situation. Hwy 97 from Brewster to Pateros and Hwy 97 from Chelan to Pateros are closed. Portions of Hwy 20 and Hwy 153 are being closed intermittently. You can contact the “511” automated Washington Department of Transportation Travel Information line for updated information.

Forest Service Area Closures: All USFS land south of the Twisp River Rd. and the #37 Rd are closed. This includes the entire Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness on both the Methow and Chelan sides of the ridge, with the exception of the Lakeside Trail near Chelan. Also included is the South Summit area of the Methow Ranger District.

Communications and emergencies

Lack of communications is one of this fires big challenges. Power has been out in the Methow Valley since Thursday, and residents are preparing to be without power for another week or more.

The Okanogan County PUD officials say four miles of power line have been affected by the fire, but its crews haven’t been able to make it into the area yet to inspect the damage.

Cellular phone service in the Methow Valley north of Carlton is out. No one can call into or out of the valley unless they’re using a land-line, non-cordless/electric phone to call another noncordless/electric phone. Long-distance service is down. Frontier Communications reports it’s working with local authorities to restore service. 

The emergency 911 service isn’t working in the Methow Valley. The area’s only ambulance service, Aero Methow Rescue has set up a mini emergency room in Twisp staffed by a volunteer doctor and nurse practitioner.

The company will respond to emergencies called in over a land line to 509-997-4013.

The Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster has a functioning emergency room, but the hospital is under a Level 1 (low level) evacuation notice and can’t receive new in-patients until the notice is lifted.

The next fire update should happen around 4 p.m.

— World reporters K.C. Mehaffey and Christine Pratt worked togehter on this update.

 

 PATEROS —Multiple agencies are still at work assessing the Carlton Complex fires. No comprehensive update is available yet, Lauri Jones, an official with Okanogan County Public Health said at 11:15 a.m.

The fire is actively burning, but no communities appear in imminent danger at this time, Jones said.

Area residents in need of food, water or shelter can call 509-422-7348, she said. This number is not set up to answer questions about the fire, she said.

One home burned last night when the fire swept by the community of Malott, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said at mid morning.

No human injuries or deaths have been reported.

We’ve lost a lot of livestock and everything else, but no reports of injuries, lost people or deaths,” he said.

The fire’s southwest flank is burning toward Chelan County at Antoine Creek, Rogers said. 

A Chelan County crew is headed to Antoine Creek to monitor the fire.

Evacuation levels have not been updated, he said. Twisp remains at Level 2 (be ready to leave). 

An official at Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster reports that the hospital’s emergency room is open, but the hospital can’t accept new in-patients until its Level 1 evacuation (be on alert) are lifted, the official said.

Highway 153 between Winthrop and Pateros is open. Highway 20 remains closed east of Twisp from milepost 206 at Finley Canyon to milepost 215 at Loup Loup Summit. No detour is available.

A more detailed fire update should be available soon, Jones said.

 

Reach Christine Pratt at 509-665-1173 or . Follow her on Twitter at @CPrattWW.

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