Unchecked wildfires threaten more homes in Washington, Oregon

Plumes of smoke from the Leavenworth wildfire, as seen from Highway 2 in Washington, arc in the sky.
(Mike Siegel / Associated Press)

A wildfire in north-central Washington, which has already destroyed 83 homes and threatens at least 150 more, continued to burn unchecked Friday, fire officials said.

The Carlton complex fire, located near the town of Twisp, has burned nearly 170,000 acres and forced the evacuation of between 300 and 500 homes, according to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. It is one of the two largest fires among at least 20 raging across Washington and Oregon.

The Buzzard complex fire outside Burns, Ore., is the largest, having grown to more than 270,000 acres. Carol Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Coordination Center, which oversees emergency response to large fires in both states, said the Buzzard fire had destroyed two homes so far.

Fifteen wildfires in Oregon and five in Washington, nearly all of which started as a result of a lightning storm that moved through the
region last weekend, have burned roughly 540,000 acres, forcing evacuations and drawing thousands of rescue personnel to the area.


More than 360,000 acres have burned in central and eastern Oregon while about 180,000 acres have burned in northern and central Washington, Connolly said. All 20 fires have been fed by recent wind gusts of up to
30 mph and hot, dry weather, she said.

No fatalities or major injuries have been reported, but several firefighters have suffered minor injuries and hundreds of homes have been threatened, Connolly said.

There are currently 15 incident management teams deployed, comprising more than 6,000 firefighters.

Evacuations have been ordered in both states, with the most recent Friday from the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office in central Oregon. Nearly 40 households are affected by the Waterman complex fire in northeastern Oregon, which has burned nearly 8,000 acres.

The Mills Canyon complex of three fires — which broke out last week in Chelan County, Wash. — has burned about 30,000 acres of brush and timber, prompting officials Thursday to advise residents of 860 homes to evacuate.