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Firefighters make progress against wildfires

By CaSEY MINTER

Capital Press

Firefighters make progress is wrestling wildfires under control.

Fire crews in Oregon and Washington have been battling several large fires for the past three weeks and are beginning to see results.

Seven of the 16 fires burning in the two states are now more than 80 percent contained, including the nation’s biggest wildfire, the Buzzard Complex in Oregon.

However, the danger has not yet passed, said Carol Connolly, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

“Two new large fires entered the system today, the Launch fire in Oregon and the Road C Fire in Washington,” Connolly said. The fires are 100 acres and 1,000 acres, respectively, and the causes of both are under investigation.

A total of 814,645 acres are burning in the two states, Oregon having the bulk of that at 526,186 acres compared to Washington’s 288,459 acres.

However, Washington fires are endangering more structures and requiring more personnel. Of the 7,435 fire personnel working in the two states, 4,523 are in Washington and 2,912 in Oregon.

The Buzzard Complex, which blackened a total of 395,747 acres 45 miles southeast of Burns, Ore., is continuing to smoke, but is 98 percent contained. After rampaging across vast amounts of rangeland and brush grass, this fire has become less of a priority, with 234 personnel working on it now. It was the second largest fire in the past decade in Oregon, compared to the Long Draw Fire in 2012 that burned 719,694 acres.

Fire personnel have broken the Carlton Complex, the largest fire in Washington’s history, into three zones. So far, the fire has destroyed 300 residences and is threatening 1,000 others. Some 83 crews totaling 3,085 people are working on containing the fire and parts of the area are still without power. Evacuations are still in place in Okanogan County, where the fire has burned 250,806 acres. Temperatures over 100 degrees, dry conditions and forecasts of lightning and thunderstorms are keeping fire personnel in the area on high alert.

“With warming and drying of last few days, there is a high potential for large fires in the region, the weather is getting the fuels just right for it,” said Connolly.

“There may be some isolated pockets of moisture, will it be enough? We don’t know,” Connolly said, “We do have initial attack resources in place, and that is our number one priority.”

The Chiwaukum Complex, Washington’s second largest fire, is threatening 1,583 residences and is only 25 percent contained. It has burned 12,337 acres and 25 crews totaling 1,231 people are working to bring it under control. National Guard troops are working alongside fire personnel to control the blaze, and hot, dry conditions are expected to allow the fire to grow in the coming days.

Lightning storms are expected to come up from the southern Oregon border and push north into Central and Eastern Oregon, threatening ignition of more small fires that could escalate with the increasingly warm, dry temperatures and gusting winds.

Compared to the rest of the country, Washington and Oregon are still the smokiest states. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are 28 large fires in the nation; 16 of those are in Oregon and Washington. Other states reporting large fires are California, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado.



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