Sun, Jul 20, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Destructive fire empties Washington towns

AP, PATEROS, Washington

A massive wildfire that has destroyed at least 100 homes forced the residents of a second Washington town to leave their homes on Friday, and prompted a partial evacuation of a third community in a scenic valley, a sheriff said.

No injuries have been reported, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said on Friday night. Those living in outlying areas of Brewster were also told to leave. He said he knew the damage toll has grown, but he did not have an updated number.

“We know we’ve lost more homes,” Rogers said.

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

The hospital in Brewster was evacuated late on Thursday.

Outlying residents were told to leave on Friday because “the fire is just kind of picking up and blowing down toward Brewster,” Rogers said.

Smoke in the town was so thick it nearly obscured the Columbia River from adjacent highways. The smoke extended all the way to Spokane, 24km 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 the fire, known as the Carlton Complex, has blackened more than 670km2 and continues to grow. That size estimate was up dramatically from the prior estimate of 72km2.

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 on Friday to see what, if anything, was left of their houses.

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

Firefighters poured water over the remnants of homes on 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.

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.

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