New fire strikes in Methow Valley

Residents fight to save homes; not all of them succeed

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TWISP (AP) — A new wildfire in north-central Washington has burned six to eight homes between Twisp and Winthrop, where residents desperately tried to keep the flames from their homes before firefighters arrived, officials said Saturday.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said a new lightning storm Saturday knocked down trees and caused more problems in the already-stressed community.

Downed trees blocked state Highway 20, which was reopened Saturday morning after the Rising Eagle Fire calmed down overnight, Rogers said.

The Methow Valley wildfire, near the much larger Carlton Complex of fires, has grown to between 400 and 600 acres, fire spokesman Andy Lyon said.

The Carlton Complex has burned an area of about 395 square miles and destroyed about 300 homes. As of Saturday morning, it was 81 percent contained.

About 200 homes were under an evacuation order from the Rising Eagle Road fire.

During a walk Saturday near the fire perimeter, Lyon saw damaged and destroyed homes, but he said he did not know the exact number of buildings affected.

Firefighters concentrated on protecting homes, scattered among the trees along country roads. There were dramatic rescues of homes overnight, Lyon said.

Some residents battled the flames before the state Department of Natural Resources and local fire crews arrived, Lyon said. “Some great saves were made. Unfortunately, not all the homes were saved,” he said.

Sun Mountain Lodge was evacuated Friday. There’s only one way in and out of the world-class resort, Rogers said.

Lightning strikes, high winds and isolated heavy rain showers hit the Methow Valley on Saturday. Officials worry that downpours could cause debris flows similar to flash floods, Lyon said.

“There are no plants holding the soil in place anymore,” he said. A moderate amount of rain in a short time could turn a burned-over mountainside into a mudslide, Lyon added.

The fire started around 2:30 p.m. Friday west of Highway 20, which was closed for much of the day.

Wildfires also raged Saturday in California and Oregon.

Thousands of federal, state and local firefighters feverishly attacked more than a dozen wildfires in central and far northern California that prompted evacuations.

He also secured a federal grant Saturday to cover 75 percent of the cost to fight a nearly 33-square-mile wildfire that started in Oregon and crossed into California.

The scope and intensity of the California blazes, three of them sparked by dry lightning as the state copes with a severe drought, was comparable to the fire activity the state doesn’t usually see until September, California Department of Forestry and Fire protection Dennis Mathisen said.