Highway into Methow Valley closed again; evacuations continue

— State Highway 153 has been closed again, this time between mileposts 6 and 21, and Level 3 evacuation notices have been issued for the area between Carlton and Pateros because of wildfire.

The road closure starts six miles north Pateros and extends to two miles south of Carlton.

Multiple county road closures are in effect. Because of the fires – there are four burning in the Methow Valley – road and highway closures could change quickly, the state Department of Natural Resources warned. State Highway 20 over Loup Loup Pass is closed between milepost 206, southeast of Twisp, and milepost 215 at the Loup Loup summit.

At least two structures have burned, and there are unconfirmed reports that 10 others have been leveled.

The Okanogan County Public Utility District has cut power to the Gold Creek area because of firefighting efforts. So far, the Loup Loup Transmission Line has not been damaged and continues to supply power to the Methow Valley, Director of Engineering and Operations Tim DeVries said.

The Carlton Complex fires began Monday when a lightning storm moved through the area. The complex consists of four fires – Stokes, Gold Hikes, French Creek and Cougar Flat. Stokes and Gold Hikes, burning on opposites sides of the Methow River near Carlton, have merged.

The state mobilized fire resources Tuesday evening to assist local firefighters with structure protection, plus provide additional personnel, equipment and logistical resources.

Washington Interagency Incident Management Team 2 assumed command of the fire at noon Wednesday. The team is working with existing local resources in developing fire control strategies and tactics, fire officials said.

Other cooperating agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, state Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Okanogan Fire District No. 6 (Methow Valley) and Douglas-Okanogan Fire District No. 15 (Bridgeport, Brewster, Pateros and lower Methow Valley).

The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office is providing assistance with evacuations and road closures. Fire District No. 3 (Omak, Okanogan and Malott) have been called several times to the Methow Valley and Pateros area

Extreme fire behavior and hot weather conditions will continue to challenge firefighting efforts, fire officials said.

Structure Protection crews are working throughout the four fire areas patrolling and monitoring around structures. Firefighters are working with property owners to help reduce vegetation and remove debris.

As of mid-day Thursday, the Stokes Road/Golden Hike fires had burned 10,000 acres of brush and grass, the French Creek had burned 3,000 acres and Cougar Flats had burned 5,000 acres, interagency team spokesman Jacob McCann said.

Rapid fire spread, spotting, torching, crowning and extreme fire behavior have been reported. The fires are burning in sage, grass and timber.

Red Cross shelters have been set up at the Twisp Grange Hall, 344 W. Third Ave., and Pateros School, 344 W. Beach Ave.

The Forest Service has closed several trails: Middle Fork Ridge No. 418, Foggy Dew No. 417, Martin Creek No. 429, Eagle Lake No. 431 and Crater Creek No. 416.

Firefighters also are battling temperatures up to 105 degrees, northwest winds up to 20 mph and relative humidity of 11 percent.

Fire District No. 4 (Tonasket) was called about 4:25 p.m. Thursday to a fire on Reevas Basin Road east of town.


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