OKANOGAN The Carlton Complex fires have joined into one blaze which, at nearly 300,000 acres and growing, is now the largest wildfire in recorded Washington state history.
As of early Sunday morning, the National Interagency Coordination Center reported the fire’s acreage at 299,897 acres, although the Interagency Incident Management Team in charge of the fire fight listed the size at 237,890 acres as of Sunday morning.
At the latter size, it would be slightly less than the previous record-sized fire, the Yacolt Burn of Sept. 11-13, 1902. That fire burned across 238,920 acres in Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties, killed 38 people and left 146 families homeless.
At least 100 homes have burned in the Carlton Complex, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office said.
The management team said 1,388 firefighters assigned to the Carlton Complex worked the north and south ends of fire yesterday, continuing structure protection under cloudy and slightly cooler conditions.
The fire was most active in the southeast portion near Malott, although the fire continues to burn actively in many areas. It stretches from east of Winthrop to the Antoine Creek area of Chelan County and into Malott and Pleasant Valley near Okanogan.
Ground forces are being supported by more than 100 fire engines, 34 water tenders and 13 bulldozers.
Aerial support includes water-scooping air tankers plus a heavy air tanker, and four National Guard Blackhawk helicopters dropping water from buckets.
Additional firefighting resources are on their way to reinforce those already in place.
In the 24 hours from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, the fire grew 132,184 acres; 628 firefighters were added during that time period, the national center said. Estimated time of containment is unknown.
Washington State Incident Management Team 3 Incident Commander Bruce Holloway will meet with the public at 7 tonight in the Omak High School gym, 20 S. Cedar St. A similar meeting is planned at 7 p.m. at Brewster High School, 503 S. Seventh St.
State officials also announced the fire will be managed as three zones — Carlton, Carlton East and Carlton South.
Washington Team 3 is responsible for the eastern portion, with the team based in Omak’s East Side Park. A California Type 1 team will take command of the southern portion at 6 tonight. The present team will continue overseeing the north area.
Evacuations continue and state Highway 20 over Loup Loup Pass remains closed.
The fire also has burned the Okanogan County Public Utility District’s transmission lines over the pass and between Brewster and Pateros. The utility’s fiber-optic telecommunications backbone also is down south of Malott.
The utility estimates it could take weeks to restore electricity to all customers. Its Pateros and Methow Valley customers are without power, as are those served by the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative in the upper valley.
Land-line and cell telephone service also is affected.
All U.S.Forest Service land south of the Twisp River Road and No. 37 Road are closed. That includes the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area between the Methow Valley and Lake Chelan, with the exception of the Lakeside Trail near Chelan.
Also included in the closure is the South Summit area off the Loup.
Yesterday evening a bulldozer overturned in the Fox Mountain area west of Okanogan. The operator suffered minor injuries.