Cooler weather aids crews fighting Washington fire

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Cooler weather aids crews fighting Washington fire
A DC-10 air tanker drops fire retardant over a wildfire Saturday, July 19, 2014, near Carlton, Wash. A wind-driven, lightning-caused wildfire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes Thursday and Friday, leaving behind solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley northeast of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: Randy Loucks, right, of Brewster, Washington and Rich Pitkethly of Brewster dig through the remains of a home belonging to Loucks mother-in-law following a wildfire July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. The home was destroyed in a fire storm July 17. Loucks had just finished sprucing up the house with new paint and carpet as a surprise to his mother-in-law, who is visiting relatives in Arkansas. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: A United States flag is displayed amid the ruins of a block of homes following a wildfire July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: A home destroyed by wildfire overlooks the Methow River July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Firefighter Kathleen Calvin looks around as she sits atop her fire truck while waiting to begin work as smoke from a wildfire fills the sky behind Saturday, July 19, 2014, in Winthrop, Wash. A wind-driven, lightning-caused wildfire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes Thursday and Friday, leaving behind solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley northeast of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: Randy Loucks, right, of Brewster, Washington and Rich Pitkethly of Brewster dig through the remains of a home belonging to Loucks mother-in-law following a wildfire July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. The home was destroyed in a fire storm July 17. Loucks had just finished sprucing up the house with new paint and carpet as a surprise to his mother-in-law, who is visiting relatives in Arkansas. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Flames shoot from behind a house during a wildfire Friday, July 18, 2014, near Pateros, Wash. Authorities say the wildfire has already burned about 100 homes and prompted the evacuation of Pateros, home to about 650 people in Okanogan County. A hospital in nearby Brewster was also evacuated as a precaution.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Firefighters works on the still-smoldering home of the mayor of Pateros, Wash., Friday, July 18, 2014. A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles. Friday's dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A firefighter works on the still-smoldering home of the mayor of Pateros, Wash., Friday, July 18, 2014. A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles. Friday's dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A plume of smoke is seen over Interstate 25 as the Waldo Canyon wildfire moved into subdivisions and destroyed homes in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Gaylon Wampler)
David Burdick walks past the smoldering remains of his niece's home after sifting through the rubble Friday, July 18, 2014, in Pateros, Wash. A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles. Friday's dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Massive flames burn trees in the Chiwaukum Creek Fire as seen from the air near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A plane drops fire retardant on the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke and flames rise from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014, in this aerial photo. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Flames from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire are seen from the air near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire is seen from the air with Mount Rainier in the background near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire is shown from the window of an airplane flying near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Flames from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire are seen from the air near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Chinook helicopter carries a water bucket above the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Flames burn trees in the Chiwaukum Creek Fire as seen from the air near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A wildfire burns near Entiat, Wash., Friday, July 11, 2014. Several hundred firefighters worked Friday to contain the fire that has burned grass and brush across nearly 30 square miles in central Washington. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Smoke rises from the area of a wildfire near Entiat, Wash., Friday, July 11, 2014. Several hundred firefighters worked Friday to contain the fire that has burned grass and brush across nearly 30 square miles in central Washington. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Smoke rises from the area of a wildfire near Entiat, Wash., Friday, July 11, 2014. Several hundred firefighters worked Friday to contain the fire that has burned grass and brush across nearly 30 square miles in central Washington. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
A helicopter carries a bucket of water to the area of a wildfire near Entiat, Wash., Friday, July 11, 2014. Several hundred firefighters worked Friday to contain the fire that has burned grass and brush across nearly 30 square miles in central Washington. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Smoke and flames are seen from the air at the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this Sunday July 13, 2014, photo released by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, the Moccasin Hill fire burns north of Sprague River and northeast of Klamath Falls, Ore. Lightning struck Oregon more than 6,000 times Sunday and Monday, touching off small fires by the dozens. Such a barrage can be expected to cause numerous "sleeper" or holdover fires in coming days. (AP Photo/Oregon Dept. of Forestry, Dennis Lee)
A plane drops fire retardant on the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke rises from the area of a wildfire near Entiat, Wash., Friday, July 11, 2014. Several hundred firefighters worked Friday to contain the fire that has burned grass and brush across nearly 30 square miles in central Washington. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
In this aerial photo, smoke billows from a wildfire in the Manastash Ridge area of central Washington Thursday, July 3, 2014, near Ellensburg, Wash. The blaze was reported about Thursday afternoon and has so far burned across about 2,000 acres of sagebrush, temporarily closing a nearby eastbound section of Interstate 82. Jim Duck, at the Central Washington Interagency Communications Center, said five helicopters were fighting the fire with help from several bulldozers and several dozen firefighters and said that no homes are threatened. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Smoke and flames are seen from the air at the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke from a separate fire north-east of the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., is seen from the air, Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke and flames rise from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014, in this aerial photo. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The Chiwaukum Creek Fire is seen from the air near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A plane drops fire retardant on the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The Chiwaukum Creek Fire is seen from the air near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Smoke filters through trees as seen from the air at the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: Randy Loucks, right, of Brewster, Washington and Rich Pitkethly of Brewster take a dig through the remains of a home belonging to Loucks mother-in-law following a wildfire July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. The home was destroyed in a fire storm July 17. Loucks had just finished sprucing up the house with new paint and carpet as a surprise to his mother-in-law, who is visiting relatives in Arkansas. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: A utility pole destroyed by fire is a tangle wood and wire July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. A wildfire ripped through the the block on July 17. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
PATEROS, WASHINGTON - JULY 20: Randy Loucks, right, of Brewster, Washington and Rich Pitkethly of Brewster dig through the remains of a home belonging to Loucks mother-in-law following a wildfire July 20, 2014 in Pateros, Washington. The home was destroyed in a fire storm July 17. Loucks had just finished sprucing up the house with new paint and carpet as a surprise to his mother-in-law, who is visiting relatives in Arkansas. Several fires throughout the state have destroyed hundreds of home forced evacuations and continue to threaten more communities. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
A DC-10 air tanker pulls up after dropping fire retardant over a wildfire Saturday, July 19, 2014, near Carlton, Wash. A wind-driven, lightning-caused wildfire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes Thursday and Friday, leaving behind solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles in the scenic Methow Valley northeast of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Clouds of smoke billow from a wildfire Friday, July 18, 2014, near Twisp, Wash. A fire racing through rural north-central Washington destroyed about 100 homes, leaving behind smoldering rubble, solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles as it blackened hundreds of square miles. Friday's dawn revealed dramatic devastation, with the Okanagan County town of Pateros, home to 650 people, hit especially hard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Firefighters and local authorities are heartened by weather forecasts that call for continued cooler temperatures and higher humidity as they battle a destructive wildfire that has charred hundreds of square miles in Washington state and is the largest in state history.

They just hope that the "lightning watch" also forecast this week doesn't ignite new fires.

"We don't need any more lightning," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Monday night.

"Right now there's honestly no wind," Rogers said, noting that rising evening winds complicated earlier firefighting efforts. "I'm hoping this is helping."

The Carlton Complex of fires in north-central Washington had burned about 379 square miles, fire spokesman Andrew Sanbri said Monday. That would make it the largest wildfire in the state since record-keeping started.

"There is optimism in the air, but we don't want to give the impression that all is good," Sanbri said. "Things are improving."

The fire was just 2 percent contained Monday.

Fire crews quickly attacked a new fire east of Tonasket on Monday, Rogers said. A half-dozen homes were briefly evacuated, but the fire burned past them with no destruction.

Residents of a couple of dozen additional rural homes were told to leave Monday, but Rogers said that was just a precaution.

At 243,000 acres, the Carlton Complex is larger than the Yacolt Burn, which consumed 238,920 acres in southwestern Washington in 1902 and was the largest recorded forest fire in state history, according to HistoryLink.org, an online resource of Washington state history. The Yacolt Burn killed 38 people.

Rogers has estimated that 150 homes have been destroyed already, but he suspected that number could rise. The fire is being blamed for one death.

Firefighters were hampered by the loss of electricity in the area due to downed power lines and poles, which hurt communications. There was no estimate on when utilities would be restored.

The forecast for Tuesday called for lighter winds and lower temperatures, said Spokane-based National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Koch.

Then on Wednesday a vigorous front is expected to cover Washington, bringing rain to much of the state. But it will also bring lightning, Koch added.

"We may get some rain where we need it, but we may also experience some lightning that could cause some new ignitions," he said.

The fire has created smoky conditions and reduced air quality in much of eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

One man died of an apparent heart attack while fighting the fire near his home, Rogers said.

Rob Koczewski, 67, was stricken on Saturday while he and his wife were hauling water and digging fire lines near their home. Koczewski was a retired Washington State Patrol trooper and U.S. Marine, Rogers said.

There are more than 1,600 firefighters battling the flames, assisted by more than 100 fire engines, helicopters dropping buckets of water and planes spreading flame retardant, Sanbri said.

Many towns in the scenic Methow Valley remain without power and have limited landline and cellphone service. Fully restoring power to the area could take weeks, Okanogan County Public Utility District officials told KREM.

The towns of Brewster, Pateros, Twisp and Winthrop were temporarily powering water systems and sewer services by generator, said Mark Clemens, a spokesman at the state Emergency Operations Center.

The state estimates that about 7,000 electricity customers are without power, Clemens said. The population of Okanogan County is about 40,000 people.

More than 100 Washington National Guard soldiers are supporting state Department of Natural Resources firefighters, Clemens added. National Guard helicopters have dropped more than 500,000 gallons of water on the fires.





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