Fire crews in central WA work to keep fire from moving north

by: Joanna Small Updated:

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WINTHROP, Wash. —

KIRO 7 has dramatic new video that takes you inside the destruction caused by the Carlton Complex Wildfire.  A drone flown by Chelan HD Productions gives a unique perspective; in some areas the damage is vast and devastating.  In others, there's a distinct line between charred land and green grass.

The Carlton Complex fire is now the largest in state history, and as of today it's just 16 percent contained.  Altogether the fires burning east of the Cascades have now charred more than 250,000 acres-- about 3 times the size of Seattle.  Much of the manpower today is being concentrated on preventing it from jumping a major highway.

All week KIRO 7’s Joanna Small has been at the command center on the northwest side of the fire, but today she moved to the command center on the northeast side of the fire set up at the fairgrounds in Omak.  You won’t see smoke and flames there because right now crews are working to stop the fire before it starts there.

Much of their effort is focused on Highway 20 between Twisp and Okanogan.

"We're getting a lot of activity right in here which is threatening Highway 20 which is what closed Highway 20 yesterday and evacuation orders increased yesterday,” Seth Barnes with the Department of Natural Resources, working out of Omak.

Homes have already burned to the ground on the south side of the highway; the State Department of Transportation has closed Highway 20 a number of times since Thursday.

"Well it's pretty spooky,” Brian Dammon told us.  “You get a fire like that come in here and wipe everything out."

Dammon was ordered to leave his house at the mouth of the road closure; he returned sure it would be gone.

"I thought they were gone,” he said of the homes in his subdivision.

He's been watching hot spots flare up all around him since then, so today the first real raindrops since the fire erupted felt like sweet relief.

"Hopefully it keeps up and the thunder and lightning holds off,” Dammon said.

That's a legitimate concern—lightning, expected later this week.  Lightning is what started these four fires that amassed into one massive blaze.

"With the good comes a little bad too so we're going to see what we can get done,” Barnes said.

That's why holding the fire at Highway 20 is so important.

"We're trying to keep it somewhere where we'll limit the potential loss of life and property,” Barnes explained.

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