A new, fast-moving wildfire that started between Twisp and Winthrop prompted evacuations in Okanogan County Friday afternoon.
The fire started around 2:30 p.m. and was 200 to 300 acres by Friday evening, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The fire moved northwest around Liberty Bell High School, where the incident command post for the Carlton complex fire is located. It was later reported that the command post was secured.
The fire’s cause is unknown.
Evacuation orders were in place Friday night for Sun Mountain Resort and Pearrygin Lake State Park, fire officials said in an 8 p.m. email. Other areas were told to be prepared to evacuate, and the city of Winthrop was told to monitor media and be aware of potential fire danger.
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“We’re watching this fire move very quickly,” said Alyse Cadez, a National Park Service spokeswoman who is at the incident command post. “We can see the fire. It’s very close.”
Highway 20 was closed between Twisp and Winthrop, the Washington State Department of Transportation reported Friday afternoon. Traffic was being rerouted via Old Twisp Highway.
Bill Pope said he saw “heavy, very distinct, very dark” smoke when he was in Winthrop on Friday afternoon. Pope, who lives about 13 miles northwest in Mazama, was able to leave Winthrop shortly before officials closed Highway 20 after the fire started.
“It was moving fast,” Pope said. “We had bad winds that were blowing from the southeast.” He described the situation as scary.
Thunderstorms moved through the area with 20-mile winds, officials said. High temperatures in the area Friday reached the low 90s. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures created “extreme fire-growth potential,” according to the National Weather Service, which issued a red-flag warning and flash-flood watch for the area on Friday.
The fire is separate from the Carlton complex fire, which started as four fires and grew into one larger fire on July 20, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. The Carlton complex fire is 394 square miles and 71 percent contained.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced an extension to the burn ban Friday that includes most outdoor and agricultural burning for 20 Eastern Washington counties, including Okanogan County, according to a news release. The burn ban is extended to next week.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or email@example.com