Lightning storm hampers firefighting efforts in Okanogan County
Lightning and wind hit Okanogan County on Saturday afternoon as crews worked to put out four new fires in addition to the Rising Eagle Road fire that started Friday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
As a lightning storm with winds of more than 40 mph blew through Okanogan County on Saturday afternoon, crews fought to put out four new fires in addition to the Rising Eagle Road fire that started Friday.
Downed power lines and trees from the storm blocked roads all around the Carlton complex fire, slowing firefighters’ arrival.
“It is like one of those disaster movies — it has just been a zoo,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said about Saturday’s efforts. “Fire trucks were responding at 3 miles per hour.”
At least six homes were lost in the Rising Eagle Road fire that started Friday afternoon near Twisp and spread two miles toward Winthrop on Friday evening.
“The fire went through private property, some homes were consumed, a lot of fences,” said fire information officer Alan Hoffmeister.
The fire did not reach Winthrop, which remained early Saturday evening at evacuation Level 1 — meaning residents should be aware there is a fire in the area.
The total number of homes destroyed was not known by Saturday afternoon, but Rogers said more than 200 homes had been evacuated Friday. Driving through the fire area Saturday morning he counted at least six destroyed homes, but was unable to continue assessing the damage when the storm hit Saturday afternoon.
The fire had spread to 400 to 600 acres by Friday night, Hoffmeister said. By late Saturday afternoon, officials said the fire was estimated to be burning an area just over 500 acres. The fire moved northwest, around Liberty Bell High School, where the incident command post for the Carlton complex fire is located.
The incident command center in the high school was evacuated Saturday afternoon when an electrical fire started in the building during the lightning storm. Anne Jeffery, fire information officer, said the fire was not serious.
The Rising Eagle Road fire is separate from the Carlton complex fire, which started as four fires and grew into one larger fire July 20, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. The Carlton complex team has assumed command of the new fire.
The Carlton complex fire is 394 square miles, and was 81 percent contained early Saturday afternoon, according to the center.
Highway 20 was open Saturday between Twisp and Winthrop after being closed when the fire crossed the road Friday evening. Pearrygin Lake State Park remained closed.
The area around Sun Mountain Ranch and Sun Mountain Resort, evacuated Friday, was put at a Level 2 Saturday, meaning people needed to “be set” to evacuate at a moment’s notice.