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Carlton fires now more than 50-percent contained

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NCW — Rain may not have put out wildfires burning across North Central Washington, but it sure helped firefighters in their efforts to contain them.

With cooler temperatures and in some places drenching rain, crews have now been able to corral more than 50 percent of the 182-mile-long perimeter of the Carlton Complex in Okanogan County and northern Chelan County.

The progress has been significant enough that officials are now making plans to scale back the tremendous firefighting presence that includes three national management teams, nearly 3,000 firefighters and a fleet of aircraft and heavy equipment.

The National Weather Service issued warnings for stormy weather and possible flash flooding Wednesday, putting people on alert in areas burned by wildfires this year and over the last few years. The storm unleashed torrential rain, hail, lightning and strong winds in some areas of NCW.

Firefighters were pulled back to safety zones on some parts of the Carlton Complex Wednesday afternoon because of stormy conditions and possible hazardous driving conditions on muddy roads.

Several debris flows were reported in the Methow Valley, including one in the Gold Creek area. There were also five debris flows reported within the Mills Canyon Fire area near Entiat and another in the Tommy Creek area of the Entiat Valley.

Mud covered the Entiat River Road about 12 miles up the valley but was quickly cleared by a county road crew.

Fire crews could not get into some areas of the Mills and Duncan fires in the Entiat Valley because roads were impassible.

Three fires were sparked by lightning in Okanogan County, but the rain kept them from spreading, fire officials said.

Overall, fire crews continue to make progress building fire lines around the Chiwaukum Creek Fire and Carlton Complex — two blazes that pose the greatest risk to communities. Fires burning at higher elevations, including Kelly Mountain and Duncan in the Entiat Valley and Lone Mountain 1 near Stehekin are being monitored, and efforts are underway to protect structures that could be threatened if the fires spread considerably. The Bugg Road Fire near Tonasket is now fully contained.

Once temperatures start increasing again, fire crews still plan to do burnouts on the Chiwaukum and Carlton fires to shore up containment lines built by hand and by dozer.

Officials are still concerned about the Carlton fire growing in the Libby Creek and Gold Creek areas and in at the northern edges of the complex. They will also do burnouts within the so-called “donut hole” — an unburned around within the fire’s perimeter in the Methow Valley — next week.

Reach Michelle McNiel at 509-664-7152 or . Follow her on Twitter at @MichelMcNielWW.