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Originally published July 27, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Page modified July 28, 2014 at 3:57 PM

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Costs already top $50 million in fighting state’s wildfires

Those figures don’t include loss of property and damage to infrastructure.


The Associated Press

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The cost of fighting this season’s wildfires in Washington, including the largest one in the state’s history, has crossed the $50 million mark.

Bolstered by the nearly 400-square-mile wildfire in North Central Washington, this year’s season has been widespread, with dozens of fires burning at the same time.

So far, state estimates put the cost of fire suppression at just over $50 million. Nearly half that cost comes from the Carlton complex fire, with a tally of $23.3 million.

The next-biggest cost is the Chiwaukum fire north of Leavenworth.

Those figures don’t include loss of property and damage to infrastructure.

The Carlton fire has burned about 300 homes and heavily damaged the power grid in the scenic Methow Valley.

At nearly 400 square miles, the lightning-caused Carlton complex has eclipsed the 1902 Yacolt burn, which killed 38 people and consumed about 373 square miles in Southwest Washington.

The Carlton complex has been blamed for the death of a retired state trooper who appeared to suffer a heart attack while trying to protect his property.

The Carlton fire continues to burn in rising temperatures, but no major flare-ups have been reported.

“We’re seeing more and more (plumes of) smokes popped up but nothing to get terribly concerned about yet,” incident spokesman Alan Hoffmeister said.

Two planned burnouts to clear grasses and small trees that could feed the fire were canceled Sunday because of weather conditions.

“The weather was just too hot. Not safe enough,” said spokeswoman Joni Quarnstrom, who added that controlled burnouts require cooler temperatures with no winds and higher humidity.

Quarnstrom said firefighters keep working on building a line around the perimeter of the fire and they’ll keep looking for the right weather window for the burnouts. “It’s a day-by-day situation,” she said.

Meanwhile, temperatures continue to climb in North Central Washington, and they could reach triple digits this week.

In Oregon, the state’s large wildfires seem to be contained, although high temperatures were also a concern there.

The nation’s largest wildfire — the 618-square-mile Buzzard complex in Eastern Oregon, 45 miles northeast of Burns — remained at 95 percent contained Sunday.

Reports from the fire say containment lines continue to hold as crews monitor increased fire activity.

Containment of the Ochoco complex jumped from 69 to nearly 80 percent Sunday. The complex consists of four wildfires burning 10,000 acres east of Prinville.

The Bridge 99 complex fire north of Sisters is 74 percent contained.

Seattle Times writer Ángel González contributed to this story



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