TWISP, Okanogan County — About 300 homes — twice as many as previously estimated — have burned in the largest recorded wildfire in Washington state history, a county sheriff said Friday.
Officials had placed the number of homes destroyed at 150 in north-central Washington’s Carlton complex fire. But Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he knew that figure would rise because crews hadn’t been able to reach some of the burned areas.
The updated estimate came after Rogers and his deputies drove 750 miles of roadway through the blackened area, surveying the devastation.
“It’s every road. Every road lost something,” Rogers said. “It looks like a moonscape; there’s nothing left. There’s hundreds of dead livestock. It’s horrifying.”
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At nearly 400 square miles, or 256,000 acres, the lightning-caused Carlton complex has eclipsed the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which killed 38 people and consumed about 373 square miles, or 238,720 acres, in Southwest Washington. The Carlton complex has been blamed for one death — a man who appeared to suffer a heart attack while trying to protect his property.
The Red Cross still has three shelters open for people who lost homes to the fire, but only 13 people are using them, according to Nicolle LaFleur, executive director for the Apple Valley and North Cascade Red Cross Chapter. Many others are staying with family, she said.
The Red Cross is focused on long-term recovery for people affected by the wildfires and has opened two client-service centers, where caseworkers, including Spanish speakers, will help people assess the damage and come up with a recovery plan.
The Red Cross is providing disaster mental-health workers at both its shelters and service centers. LaFleur said it also has mobile kitchens in Brewster, Carlton, Methow and Pateros.
“We need to keep in mind we have a long way to go,” LaFleur said. “We are just starting the recovery phase of this disaster, and we are still only halfway through the fire season.”
Fire crews have reported good progress in the past few days, with cooler weather and rain helping to get the fire slightly more than half contained. But officials were concerned that hotter, drier weather and wind gusts in the forecast could increase fire activity.
The fire has been burning in the scenic Methow Valley, a popular area for hiking and fishing about 180 miles northeast of Seattle. The fire destroyed 30 homes in the town of Pateros, one of the worst-hit areas. Another 52 homes burned in the nearby golf community of Alta Lake.
Power was finally restored to parts of the valley, including Twisp and Winthrop, on Friday, eight days after the fire burned two key utility lines. But many people in outlying areas remained without electricity, Rogers said.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday extended a burn ban for dry Eastern Washington for one more week. The ban had been set to end Friday.
“While fire crews have made significant progress over the past week in bringing the fires under control, weather conditions are still a concern and we need to continue erring on the side of safety,” Inslee said. “Resources are still stretched thin and we want everything we have focused on containing the remaining fires and helping impacted families.”
He also said that the state would waive permit requirements for anyone in the affected areas who wants to use extra-large generators because they remain without power.
Material from The Associated Press and Seattle Times reporter Zahra Farah was used in this report.