The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Crews make gains on destructive Washington state wildfire; flash floods now a concern

  • Print

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Firefighters made progress Tuesday in their efforts to get the largest wildfire in Washington state's history under control, with wetter weather bringing some relief but also raising concerns about flash flooding.

The Carlton Complex of fires, which has burned nearly 400 square miles in the north-central part of the state, was 16 per cent contained as of Tuesday, fire spokeswoman Jessica Payne said. A day earlier, the fire was just 2 per cent contained.

Firefighters and local authorities have been heartened by forecasts that call for cooler temperatures and higher humidity. But even though wetter weather has moved in, they worry that lightning strikes could ignite more fires.

Rain also brought worries about the potential for flash flooding because so much ground vegetation has been burned away.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch from Wednesday morning through Wednesday evening due to expected heavy rainfall.

"It takes as little as 10 minutes of heavy rain to cause flash flooding and debris flows in and below areas affected by wildfires," the advisory said. "Rain runs off almost instantly from burned soils ... causing creeks and drainages to flood at a much faster rate than normal."

Still, the weather change was a positive development.

"The cooler weather and the moisture has cooled aspects of the fire down," fire spokeswoman Susan Peterson said Tuesday evening. "In some instances, firefighters were able to do a direct attack.

"We had additional crews come in, and they were able to put lines in closer to the fire itself."

Speaking at a fundraiser Tuesday in Seattle, President Barack Obama said the wildfire, along with other Western blazes, can be attributed to climate change.

"A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns and a lot of that has to do with climate change," the president said.

Obama also said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate had authorized an emergency declaration to ensure communities that lost power because of burned power lines and poles get electrical power.

At more than 250,000 acres, the Carlton Complex is larger than the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which consumed 238,920 acres in southwestern Washington and was the state's largest recorded forest fire, according to HistoryLink.org, an online resource of Washington state history.

The fire is being blamed for one death. Rob Koczewski, 67, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday while he and his wife were hauling water and digging fire lines near their home. Koczewski was a retired Washington State Patrol trooper and U.S. Marine.

The number of homes destroyed in the Carlton Complex fire remained at 150, Payne said. Two structures, an outbuilding and a seasonal cabin, were confirmed destroyed Tuesday in the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, she said.

More than 2,100 firefighters and support crew are involved with fighting the fire, Payne said. She said firefighters have had success with fire lines on the east side of state Highway 153 between Carlton and Twisp, and they planned to burn lines around Pearrygin Lake.

"If that's successful, it will mitigate some of the risk to the homes in the area," she said.

Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state's Military Department, said the National Guard has already been offering aerial support, but 100 National Guard troops were now being used on the ground for firefighting, and additional troops were receiving firefighting training for potential future use.

Gov. Jay Inslee briefed Obama on the fire situation after the president arrived in Seattle Tuesday afternoon at the start of a three-day West Coast trip.

"We have real significant challenges," Inslee said. "To have the president here today is actually a stroke of luck."

Inslee said Obama called Koczewski's wife to express his condolences.

Inslee said officials will assess damage to determine whether the state qualifies for a major disaster declaration that would allow people whose properties have been damaged or destroyed to seek additional resources.

Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell were among a dozen U.S. senators who sent a letter to Senate leaders Tuesday asking for passage of emergency legislation to allocate $615 million to fight wildfires.

Fires are currently burning in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and California, and both Oregon and Washington have declared states of emergency.

Inslee said that while it was promising that firefighters had gained some ground on the fire, "it's still a growing and dangerous beast."

"We have a long, long ways to go in the fire season, months, before we're out of the woods," he said.

___

Online:

http://carltoncomplex.blogspot.com

http://www.dnr.wa.gov

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Reimagining Winnipeg as the big city of the future

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012
  • Perfect Day- Paul Buteux walks  his dog Cassie Tuesday on the Sagimay Trail in Assiniboine Forest enjoying a almost perfect  fall day in Winnipeg- Standup photo – September 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you support Canada's involvement in the fight against Islamic State?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google