10/21/2014

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Wildfire prompts evacuation order for Okanogan County town

Wildfire prompts evacuation order for Okanogan County town
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A north-central Washington sheriff issued an urgent evacuation notice late Thursday for the wildfire-threatened small town of Pateros and officials were also evacuating a hospital in a nearby town, authorities said.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers issued the evacuation notice for the town of Pateros and a hospital in nearby Brewster, county sheriff's dispatchers confirmed. Pateros has a population of about 650 people and Brewster is home to about 2,400.

The area is threatened by a fast-growing cluster of wildfires known as the Carlton Complex, which has burned across at least 28 square miles of the scenic Methow Valley.

"It's been in the town for about the last two hours," Rogers said. "From one end of the town to the other -- the whole thing -- we've got houses on fire in all parts of it."

Scott Miller, the county's emergency manager, said homes have been lost. Authorities earlier Thursday confirmed the fire had burned at least two homes.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, Miller said.

Fire spokesman Tim Perciful said Thursday night he had no new acreage figures for the fire complex.

"Our personnel have been so busy they're not able to get back to us quickly," he said from an incident command post where the electricity was out Thursday night due to the fire.

For Friday's fire fight, "We're trying to get more state resources," Perciful said.

There is zero containment on the fire complex growing in high temperatures and gusty winds.

Several highways in the area were closed late Thursday, including a portion of U.S. Highway 97.

Meanwhile, another wildfire about 100 miles south chased people from nearly 900 homes as it burned near the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth.

The Chiwaukum Creek Fire sent a light dusting of ash over Leavenworth, where the German-style motif provides a backdrop to Oktoberfest and a Christmas tree lighting festival.

The fire's smoke plume rose 25,000 feet into the air. The blaze closed 15 miles of U.S. Highway 2 in the area.

"There's a huge cloud of smoke above us," Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who lives just outside of Leavenworth, said Thursday morning. "The winds started to pick up a little. It's just like snowfall here with the ash coming down. It's fine ash. We're getting all this ash fall."

Residents of 860 homes have been told they should leave immediately, fire officials said. Another 800 homes were less seriously threatened.

Authorities said Thursday that the Chiwaukum Creek Fire has grown to more than 10 square miles. It was first detected Tuesday.

"The weather and winds are not in our favor," said fire spokeswoman Mary Bean. Temperatures have been in the triple digits with winds gusting as high as 30 mph.

She said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

About 1,000 firefighters were fighting blazes around the state that included the Mills Canyon Fire, the state's largest at 35 square miles.

Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor's offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows state officials to call up the National Guard.
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