By Marcy Stamper, transcribed by Darla Hussey
As of Friday night (July 18) at 9 p.m., an infrared flight showed the Carlton Complex had grown to 215,000 acres, but there has been additional growth since then, although not as much as in previous days according to the public information officer (PIO) for the fires.
The Okanogan County Sheriff reports 80 to 100 structures in total have been lost in the fires, with only one loss on Friday/Friday night, reportedly in Malott.
Numerous evacuations are in place, but with the situation constantly changing, people should get evacuation information from the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office phone number is (509) 422-7200. Access to the 911 system has been troublesome, but it is stable at the time of this writing.
Saturday afternoon, the Okanogan County PUD released a statement with their first assessment of damage to the transmission line from over the Loup. “Like many of the homes, the electrical system is almost a complete loss. Okanogan County PUD personnel are working around the clock. However, the extent of the damage is so great that it could take several weeks before power is restored.”
One big priority of fire crews is to secure Highway 20 over Loup Loup Pass so that PUD technicians can safely assess and work on the line.
Air tankers are also concentrating on the area east of Twisp in an effort to keep the fire from coming closer to the town of Twisp, which has been under a level II evacuation order (advising residents to be ready to leave) since 6 p.m. Friday.
The fire has been backing down the west slope of Balky Hill above the Twisp-Winthrop East County Road.
As of Saturday afternoon, fire managers for the Carlton Complex announced they had successfully built a fire line east of Highway 20 between Winthrop and Twisp and say it is holding well. Fire managers are also planning backburns when conditions permit to create a firebreak between the fire and the town.
A big challenge facing fire crews today is a predicted shift in winds which are expected to blow towards the southwest (towards Lake Chelan). The wind shift will push the fire back on itself in some areas, but also create the risk of spread to new areas, according to the PIO.
Weather is somewhat cooler today (Saturday) with slightly higher humidity but strong wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour mean continued risk of extreme fire behavior.
There are 760 personnel and more than a dozen helicopters and aircraft combating the fire. They will be three separate teams managing different geographic areas.