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Destructive Washington fire empties another town



By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS and GENE JOHNSON

PATEROS, Wash. (AP) - A massive wildfire that has destroyed at least 100 homes forced the residents of a second north-central Washington town to leave their homes Friday, and prompted a partial evacuation of a third community in the scenic Methow Valley, a sheriff said.

"We basically evacuated the whole town" of Malott, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday night. Those living in outlying areas of Brewster were also told to leave.

Malott is home to about 500 people, while the population of Brewster is about 2,400.

No injuries have been reported, the sheriff said, adding he knew the damage toll has grown but he didn't have an updated number.

"We know we've lost more homes," he said.

The hospital in Brewster was evacuated late Thursday. Outlying residents were told to leave on Friday, Rogers said, because "the fire is just kind of picking up and blowing down toward Brewster." Smoke in the town on Friday was so thick it nearly obscured the Columbia River from adjacent highways. The smoke extended all the way to Spokane, 150 miles to the east.

Fire swept through the town of Pateros on Thursday, leaving its 650 residents to return to large areas of smoldering rubble.

Officials said Friday the fire known as the Carlton Complex has blackened more than 260 square miles and continues to grow. That size estimate was up dramatically from the prior estimate of 28 square miles.

Friday's dawn revealed dramatic devastation in Pateros, including solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles. Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses.

A wall of fire wiped out a block of homes on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

"It was just a funnel of fire," Brownlee said. "All you could do was watch her go."

The pavement of U.S. Highway 97 stopped the advance of some of the flames, protecting parts of the town.

Firefighters poured water over the remnants of homes Friday morning, raising clouds of smoke, steam and dust. Two big water towers perched just above the town were singed black. Ash fell like snowflakes.

The fire consumed utility poles from two major power lines, knocking out power to Pateros as well as the towns of Winthrop and Twisp to the north.

Gov. Jay Inslee said about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, and 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.

Sections of several highways were closed in the Methow Valley, a popular area for hiking and fishing about 180 miles northeast of Seattle.

"There's a lot of misplaced people, living in parking lots and stuff right now," said Rod Griffin, a fly-fishing guide who lives near Twisp. "The whole valley's in disarray."

He described long lines for gasoline, with at least one gas station out of fuel, and said cellphone towers must have been damaged as well because there was very little service.

"Mother Nature is winning here," Don Waller, chief of Okanogan County Fire District 6, told The Wenatchee World newspaper.

Sheriff Rogers said earlier his team counted 30 houses and trailers destroyed in Pateros, another 40 in a community just outside the town at Alta Lake, and about 25 homes destroyed elsewhere in the county of about 40,000 people.

About 100 miles to the south, the Mills Canyon-Chiwaukum Creek complex of fires earlier chased people from nearly 900 homes as it sent a dusting of ash over the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth. Most of those evacuation orders were rolled back by Friday, with residents of only about 300 homes affected, said fire spokesman Bob MacGregor.

Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor's offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows state 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.

___

Johnson reported from Seattle. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle, Rachel La Corte in Olympia, and Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Oregon.

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joper201 July 19 2014 at 1:12 AM

I wonder how many Fuel Reduction Projects the extreme environmentalists have stopped with their law suits.

I live 5 miles from 34000 acres of destroyed forest.
The Forest Service wanted to do a fuel reduction in an 1800 acre clear cut they had replanted about 20 years ago.
The local extreme environmentalist group sued on behalf of the Pacific Fisher and stopped the Project.
NOW the Pacific Fisher is gone for a couple of hundred years along with another 32000 acres.
Makes a lot of sense doesn't it!

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1 reply
Debra joper201 July 19 2014 at 12:38 PM

Environ"mental"ists are mental. We all care about our environment, but these idiots take it to the extreme and have no clue about economics or sustainability! stupid is as stupid does.

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rjen164497 July 19 2014 at 7:22 AM

Another disaster caused by the EPA.

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rjen164497 July 19 2014 at 5:52 PM

Thank you Envromentalist and the EPA.

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katieryan5555 July 19 2014 at 10:49 AM

A map of the area and/or counties would have been good.

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1 reply
gramargo katieryan5555 July 19 2014 at 6:26 PM

I'm sure you can Google a map, or perhaps use MapQuest. This area is about halfway between Seattle and Spokane where the Columbia River turns south along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains.

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bjredmond64 July 19 2014 at 11:22 AM

so much devastation in our country and the whole world, just this last year. do you think as the bible says, "when ALL these things come together at the same time, look up", means anything? now that israel is a country again and obviously holding her ground, most of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ have been fullfilled for the first time in history. i dont see things getting better, but i do see Christ on the horizon. look up!

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Tin Manne July 19 2014 at 3:39 PM

We have a few been here a hundred years.We build houses and towns in risky places. Fire has existed longer humans. Forests have been here longer than humans. How many forest fires happen just because? How many forest fires happen by human habitation? How does ONE forest fire pollute the air and how much global warming occurs?

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John Roberson July 19 2014 at 2:53 PM

Mother nature is winning? God said he would never destroy the earth by water again, but He did say He would by fire and He has removed many areas from receiving much needed water. So, Mr President are you going to be like the leader of Ninevah and realize that God is really in control and turn America around instead of telling God that you know what is right and asking for His blessing for what you want!!!!! Think Mr President and think all you leaders what you are doing before it is too late!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Debra July 19 2014 at 12:55 PM

Some people think there are Islamic terrorists setting these fires on purpose to deplete our resources. There is a guy out of Colorado Springs who has been following this theory closely. It is being squashed by the admin and lousy media. I guess it sounds crazy but frankly, I would not be surprised. We need to ship ALL Muzzies who were not born here, back to their home countries and we should have a moratorium on immigration from ALL countries until we can improve our economy and get rid of the dems who take and the repubs who make...and clean house in DC. Jus'sayin...

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Debra July 19 2014 at 12:45 PM

The question is not what is wrong with regulators, it is what is wrong with insurance companies being allowed to up our premiums?! More regulation is idiotic. That is the problem with the dems in Congress and State govt. ...they want to tell us all how to live, where to live and what we can eat etc etc...stupid warm & fuzzy rhetoric that low info believe...look at what we have in the WH...enough said.

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sharpsguy July 19 2014 at 11:32 AM

Son-Of-A-Gun! Huh. People STILL build houses in the middle of forests and fields out of easily combustible materials like asphalt shingles and vinyl siding, then cry aloud when a wildfire burns it down! THEN they REBUILD at the same spot after the insurance companies sends a check. With the SAME materials.

The really BAD result is that the insurance companies' losses derive everyone's premiums up meteorically, but OUR houses haven't been burned down!

Seems to me, the building codes need to be radically changed to MANDATE fireproof exteriors for any houses so located in fire-prone areas.

It's much like those having homes on a riverfront that get flooded every time it rains more than usual. They rebuild AGAIN, right there! WTF is wrong with regulators?

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ebeebb sharpsguy July 19 2014 at 2:16 PM

Much of the area burning now is not considered high fire danger. These fires started with lightening and became serious because of high winds. People in forests prepare for fire, but people on farms, orchards and ranches are not as prepared. This could happen anywhere....stop blaming the victims.

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