Washington, Oregon Wildfires: 1 Dead, 150 Homes Destroyed as Hope of Rain Emerges

By Sean Breslin
Published: July 23, 2014

Washington and Oregon are currently under siege from at least 20 major wildfires across the two states, fueled by dry, windy conditions. Both states, particularly Oregon, have been hit hard by drought, leading to dry foliage that's easily ignited by lightning strikes.

Background

48-Hour Rainfall Forecast

48-Hour Rainfall Forecast

48-Hour Rainfall Forecast

48-Hour Rainfall Forecast

Temperatures have cooled down in the region on the heels of triple digit heat, providing much-needed relief for the thousands of firefighters trying to keep the flames at bay, but unfortunately changing weather conditions in the coming days won't provide much certainty for containment efforts, according to weather.com meteorologist Nick Wiltgen.

"The good news is that the cool down will last for several more days," said Wiltgen. "And by Wednesday, thunderstorms may develop in the area, bringing welcome rainfall."

"However, the bad news is that those thunderstorms will also bring severe weather and lightning strikes that could spark additional fires. Not only that, but by next weekend the Northwest should see temperatures soar back into the 90s to near 100."

With that said, here's a look at some of the major wildfires in Washington and Oregon:


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Washington Wildfires:

Carlton Complex Fire: (243,000 Acres Burned; 2 Percent Contained)

The Carlton Complex fire started in the Methow Valley in Okanogan County, Washington roughly 7 miles south of Twisp, Washington, after a lightning strike on July 14, 2014, and has since grown to become the largest wildfire in state history. At 243,000 acres, the fire eclipsed the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which torched 238,920 acres and killed 38 people, according to the AP and HistoryLink.org.

Favorable winds and temperatures helped firefighters make their first progress on the Carlton Complex fire, bringing containment up to 2 percent. Due to the sheer size of the blaze, firefighters decided to split their efforts into three fronts.

"There is optimism in the air, but we don't want to give the impression that all is good," fire spokesman Andrew Sanbri told the Associated Press Monday. "Things are improving."

  • Rob Koczewski, 67, died of a heart attack trying to defend his Carlton, Washington, home from the flames, KING 5 reports
  • Towns threatened Tuesday: Twisp, Winthrop, Alta Lake
  • Destroyed an estimated 150 homes; spokesman says that number could rise
  • More than 1,600 firefighters are battling the blaze
  • Most of the Methow Valley remains without power or cell service. Restoring power could take weeks. 
  • More than 1,100 additional structures are threatened
  • Most of the homes were destroyed in or around Pateros, Washington, Thursday evening

Chiwaukum Creek Fire: (11,000 Acres Burned; 10 Percent Contained)

The Chiwaukum Creek fire started after a lightning strike on July 15, 2014, and grew more than 3,000 acres Saturday, mostly toward the southern edge of the fire. Firefighters made progress on the fire Sunday into Monday afternoon, bringing containment numbers up to 10 percent. Forecasts call for the fire to grow by 1,000 acres or more Tuesday.

  • Towns threatened Tuesday: Leavenworth
  • More than 1,580 structures threatened
  • About 1,000 personnel assigned to fight the fire
  • Closed a roughly 15 mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2 From Coles Corner, Washington, to Leavenworth, Washington
  • Nearly 900 people were evacuated near Leavenworth

Mills Canyon Fire: (23,000 Acres Burned; 85 Percent Contained)

The Mills Canyon Fire started on July, 8, 2014. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Firefighters continued to make progress establishing complete containment of the Mills Canyon Fire over the weekend and hope to squelch the blaze entirely in the coming days.

Oregon Wildfires:

Buzzard Complex Fire: (396,000 Acres Burned; 75 Percent Contained)

The Buzzard Complex fire consists of seven separate fires burning through a large area in east-central Oregon. The fire broke out after a lightning strike on July 14, 2014, in a remote area 45 miles northeast of Burns, Oregon and expanded rapidly across the area. Significant progress has been made in the last couple of days, with containment lines established around the blaze upping the total containment to 75 percent.

Shaniko Butte Fire: (42,500 Acres Burned; 75 Percent Contained)

The Shaniko Butte Fire developed after a lightning strike on July 13, 2014, on Shaniko Butte, some 12 miles to the north of Warm Springs, Oregon. The fire spread rapidly, but crews continue to make significant progress on the fire. Firefighters expect the blaze to continue to grow to the southeast, but containment lines should keep the fire's perimeter from expanding.

  • 108 structures are still threatened by the blaze
  • The popular recreational area along the Deschutes River was closed temporarily, but reopened over the weekend
  • About 500 firefighters assigned to the wildfire

Waterman Complex Fire: (12,000 Acres Burned; 75 Percent Contained)

The Waterman Complex is comprised of four separate fires started via lightning on July 11, the most pressing of which is the Bailey Butte Fire, which has burned more than 9,700 acres and is 70 percent contained. The fires are located roughly 20 miles northeast of Mitchell, Oregon.

  • Mandatory evacuations were in effect for 10 homes along West Branch Road
  • Highway 26 is closed at the Ochocho summit and Mitchell, Oregon
  • 37 structures threatened by the blaze
  • More than 900 personnel fighting the fire

Pine Creek Fire: (30,000 Acres Burned; 35 Percent Contained)

The Pine Creek Fire was sparked by lightning in the Deschutes National Forest about 11 miles South of Fossil, Oregon. The blaze was expected to approach residences in Rowe Creek. Nearly 700 firefighters are attempting the halt the blaze and containment lines have been established around the perimeter.

  • The blaze is projected to expand east and northeast Tuesday, near the Rowe Creek residences
  • Roads are closed in the area due to fire and smoky conditions
  • A temporary flight restriction was also in effect over the fire area

​For more information on all of the active wildfires in Oregon and Washington, click here.


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