Houses, orchards damaged by Washington state fires

Dan Wheat

Capital Press

The Carlton Complex Fire in Washington's Okanogan County spread rapidly July 17, destroying homes, damaging orchards and causing hundreds of people to flee as it reached the towns of Pateros and Brewster on the Columbia River. Firefighters continue to battle it and a fire northwest of Leavenworth.

BREWSTER, Wash. — About 100 houses were destroyed, orchards were damaged and hundreds of people fled as wildfires moved rapidly from around the tiny town of Carlton some 25 miles down the Methow Valley to Pateros and Brewster.

Officials at a state fire interagency command in Carlton and at the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office could not be reached as their phone lines were overloaded.

But news sources reported Pateros, population 673, and parts of Brewster, population 2,380, were evacuated, including a small hospital. Homes in Twisp reportedly were also lost. The Associated Press quoted Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers as saying 30 homes and trailers were destroyed in Pateros, 40 at Alta Lake and 25 more elsewhere.

U.S. Highway 97, the main route north through north-central Washington, was closed just north of Chelan to north of Brewster. Highway 153 from Pateros to Twisp was closed for awhile. The four fires making up the Carlton Complex were estimated at 18,000 acres by a fire official on July 17.

One orchard about five miles up valley from Pateros lost a shop an office and lots of orchard infrastructure, said a salesman at Chelan Fresh Marketing in Chelan. The owner could not be reached for comment.

Harold Schell, director of field services at Chelan Fruit Cooperative, said he doesn’t know the extent of orchard damage.

“From late yesterday afternoon until this morning has been a blur,” he said on July 18. “The fire storm came down the valley right into Pateros and Brewster.”

The towns are just seven miles apart along the Columbia River.

Fire not only came down the Methow Valley but across higher ground to the north, reaching the Chiliwist area and Brewster from the north, he said.

There is worry of the fire spreading to the south, he said.

“It’s a huge deal,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chiwaukum Creek Fire about 10 miles northwest of Leavenworth spread rapidly July 17, sending a lot of smoke down the Wenatchee Valley to Wenatchee and light ash fall all along the way.

The fire did not grow much overnight and was at 8,347 acres the morning of July 18, said Mary Bean, a fire spokesman for an interagency team in Entiat managing the Chiwaukum and Mills Canyon fires.

The front flank of the Chiwaukum was in very steep, timbered terrain west of Highway 2 and the Wenatchee River in Tumwater Canyon.

Ten helicopters were working the blaze with 441 personnel assigned, Bean said.

The goal is keeping the fire on the west side of the river and highway and from spreading down the canyon to Leavenworth, she said.

The 22,571-acre Mills Canyon Fire southwest of Entiat is 50 percent contained with 505 personnel, air tankers and helicopters at work, Bean said. Fire lines and breaks surround the fire but unburned areas inside the lines still pose potential problems, she said.

The Kelly Mountain Fire northwest of Entiat remains at 65 to 100 acres with seven smoke jumpers on site and a lot of air retardant and bucket work underway, she said.


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