OKANOGAN, Wash. — A wind-whipped wildfire in central Washington has destroyed an estimated 100 homes and is burning uncontrolled, the Okanogan County sheriff said Friday.
The fire, dubbed the Carlton Complex fire, started as four fires that have combined since lightning strikes four days ago, according to information posted to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group's InciWeb site. The blazes have blackened more than 260 square miles and forced the evacuation of Pateros, a city of fewer than 700 residents on the Columbia River about 120 miles northwest of Seattle.
"The whole town was evacuated," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said. "It was a chaotic mess, but we got everybody on the highway."
The fire is burning in the town, he said, but he believes Pateros' downtown is intact.
As fire officials assess the damage, Rogers said the number of houses destroyed likely would increase.
Several community buildings have been destroyed, including the post office, the school, a church, and a hardware store, firefighter Don Scahfer said.
A wildfire in central Washington has destroyed an estimated 100 homes and continues to burn. The fire is called the Carlton Complex fire and was started from a lightning strike. VPC
Dry timber, brittle grass and winds as high as 20 mph caused the blaze to grow almost 10 times in size in one day, from fewer than 30 square miles to more than 260, fire officials said. No injuries have been reported.
Two major power lines have burned, causing widespread power outages in the county, which at more than 5,000 square miles is the largest in the state.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is flying Friday to Wenatchee, where the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has its headquarters, to learn more about the damage and meet with people who have been evacuated. His office said more than 315 square miles have burned in the state.
Red flag warnings for hot, dry and windy weather were in effect across much of the region, but a cold front is forecast to move through late Friday, bringing cooler, moister air for the weekend.
Governors of both Washington and Oregon declared states of emergency Thursday because of the fires, freeing National Guard resources to help with the blazes.
Oregon has at least 15 active wildfires, including the Buzzard Complex fire about 150 miles west of Boise, Idaho. That set of fires also started Monday and has grown to more than 425 square miles, according to InciWeb.
Though the Bridge 99 Complex fire in the Cascades about 100 miles east of Salem, Ore., is considerably smaller, less than 10 square miles, 45 homes have been evacuated and residents of more than 800 other homes have been told to be ready to leave quickly.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued air-pollution advisories for six counties because of smoke from the wildfires.
In Burns, Ore., rancher Bill Wilber already has found seven dead cows and 13 dead calves. He expects more losses and blames the fires for his cattle deaths.
"These fires impact you for years to come and it's also a huge emotional drain," said rancher Bob Skinner, who lives in Jordan Valley, Ore., and has been fighting the Buzzard Complex fire. "Plus, these big fires just annihilate the wildlife. It's not a good situation."
Contributing: KING-TV, Seattle; KGW-TV, Portland, Ore.; Tracy, Loew, (Salem, Ore.) Statesman Journal; and The Associated Press