WINTHROP, Okanogan County — Erratic winds forced crews to cancel a burnout operation that had been planned Tuesday near Washington’s biggest wildfire to deprive it of fuel.
Crews had planned to send flames from a secure fire line on the northeast side of the Carlton complex fires back toward the main fire, through rugged terrain that they had been unable to attack directly.
Crews conducted a test burn Tuesday and decided it wasn’t a good idea, spokesman Alan Hoffmeister said. The burnout operation was planned about three miles northwest of the Loup Loup ski area, about 20 miles from Winthrop.
The Carlton complex, which has burned about 390 square miles in the Methow Valley, was two-thirds contained Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to reach the 90s this week, and keeping firefighters hydrated is a main concern.
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More than 3,100 people were assigned to the fire, as well as 19 bulldozers and 17 helicopters.
Meanwhile, a section of Highway 2 continues to be closed just west of Leavenworth, Chelan County, because of nearby wildfires at the Chiwaukum complex. Officials said that higher temperatures throughout the week will increase fire activity and likely keep the section of the road closed. A detour that adds 15 minutes of travel time is available.
The Chiwaukum complex, which has burned 12,377 acres or about 19 square miles, is now about 25 percent contained.
Crews on Friday began burying many of the approximately 300 head of cattle that died in the Carlton complex fires.
Local health officials say they need the public’s help to find other cattle carcasses and report them by calling 422-7140.
Total cattle deaths already number more than local officials say they’ve ever seen.
“The fire was moving so fast, the cattle didn’t have time to get out of the way,” said Doug Hale, environmental-health specialist for Okanogan County Public Health.
Officials will inspect and try to identify animals by brand or ear tag and determine who owned them.
In the Chiliwist area, a vast region of pine forest and open range north of Brewster, Okanogan County, 215 cattle were found.
Most belonged to rancher Cass Gebbers, who allowed authorities to dig trenches on his property to bury the cattle, Hale said. Others found on rangeland far from homes and water sources were left to decompose, he said.
Exact numbers of dead cattle haven’t been tallied, but Hale said he’d heard reports of 40 more in a remote canyon near Pateros, Okanogan County, that were left in place and 50 in a canyon near Twisp that were buried by U.S. Forest Service officials.
Most of the cattle deaths likely happened July 18, the day after the fire burned homes in Pateros and took a turn north, Hale said.
Material from The Associated Press and The Wenatchee World was used in this report.