New wildfire erupts, burns homes in Methow Valley

New wildfire erupts, burns homes in Methow Valley »Play Video
The Signal Hill fire started at about 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 1. Photo by Don Nelson / Methow Valley News
TWISP, Wash. (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 on Saturday knocked down trees and was causing more problems in the already stressed community.

Downed trees were blocking 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 are under an evacuation order from the Rising Eagle Road Fire burning in a wooded area with homes scattered throughout.

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

Firefighters were concentrating on protecting homes. There were dramatic rescues of homes overnight, Lyon said.

The homes in danger are scattered among the trees along country roads. 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.

Forecasters were predicting more dry lighting and some possible showers in the area on Saturday.

Although the forecasters weren't expecting enough rain to help firefighting efforts, there was a possibility of isolated downpours that 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 amount of time could cause a burned-out mountainside to turn 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.