Carlton Complex fire has burned almost 400-square miles in Washington

Fire officials say that rain in the forecast and cooler temperatures should help the effort to contain the massive Carlton Complex in north-central Washington.

Frances Burns

WENATCHEE, Wash., July 21 (UPI) -- Hundreds of firefighters continued to battle a wildfire Monday that has spread across almost 400 square miles in north-central Washington, burning 150 houses.

The Carlton Complex fire in the Methow Valley on the Columbia River has been responsible for at least one death. Rob Koczewski, 67, a former Marine and state trooper, had a heart attack Saturday as he and his wife tried to keep their home in Carlton from burning, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.


The Okanogan County Public Utility District said the blaze has also destroyed much of its electrical distribution system. A spokesman said repairs could take weeks.

"There's a good percentage that just doesn't exist anymore," Dan Boettger told area residents at a public meeting Sunday night in Brewster.

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The Carlton Complex, which had spread over 238,000 acres Sunday night, is the largest of many fires burning or recently extinguished in Washington and Oregon. Officials say lightning strikes started four smaller fires last Monday that are now being handled together.

Forecasters said the area should get rain Tuesday and Wednesday, and that cooler temperatures and less wind will also aid firefighters.


"The forecast for the next few days is great for firefighting," said Bob MacGregor, a fire information officer.

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When residents complained at Sunday's meeting of late warnings of evacuation, Rogers said the fire had simply become too large for the available police forces.

Brenda Riggan said she and her family got no warning and got out in the nick of time.

"We were not notified of the fire. We had no idea," she said. "And within a matter of minutes, it was upon us."

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