A raging wildfire in central Washington has wiped most of a small town off the map -
100 homes destroyed as it whips out of control across 260 square miles of dry forest - and fears are now growing that it will claim a second community.
The Carlton Complex fire grew by nearly ten times Friday as four fires horrifically merged into one and exploded across the small village of Pateros, officials said. Residents of the town of Malott and outlying areas of nearby Brewster have been evacuated as flames rages only miles from their homes.
'We basically evacuated the whole town' of Malott, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday night. Those living in outlying areas of Brewster were also told to leave.
Malott is home to about 500 people, while the population of Brewster is about 2,400.
Scroll down for video
Charred: The foundation of a home and burned-out cars remain from a wildfire the night before, Friday, July 18, 2014, in Pateros, Washington
Scorched: The shell of a burned-out car remains from the fire racing through rural north-central Washington and blackened hundreds of square miles
Race against time: Flames make a run up a hill Friday, July 18, 2014, in Winthrop, Washington as they creep towards yet another town and residents flee their homes
A hospital in Brewster was evacuated Friday night, as were hundreds of residents, officials said.
'The fire is just kind of picking up and blowing down toward Brewster,' said Rogers. Smoke is blowing as far away as Spokane, 150 miles east of the smoldering towns.
Firefighters dumped tankers full of fire retardant and tried to slow the fast-moving blaze, but were mostly helpless to protect home that got in the way of the flames.
'Mother Nature is winning here,' said Okanogan County Fire District Chief Don Waller told the Wenatchee World.
'I don’t like to lose structures. It truly bothers me. But there is nothing we can do about this.'
At least 95 houses were destroyed in and around Pateros, Washington, a small community of 650 people and 279 homes. Authorities had ordered an evacuation of the town as the wildfire neared, fearing that it would destroyed.
An aerial photo of the town shows entire blocks leveled - reduced to charred ash.
David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.
"It was just a funnel of fire,' said Brownlee. 'All you could do was watch her go.'
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said late Thursday he's heard of no injuries from the Carlton Complex of wildfires.
Smoldering: A chimney, a burned-out car and golf cart are all that remain on this Pateros property after it was ravaged by the fire
Wall of fire: A firefighter cools a tree in a line of fire Friday, July 18, 2014, in Winthrop. Officials have said they are fighting a losing battle to contain the raging blaze
Aftermath: Firefighters say 95 homes in tiny Pateros, Washington, were destroyed by the Carlton Complex fire that whipped through the town on Friday. There are only 276 homes in the entire community
Before: This is how the neighborhood looked before the wildfire blew through and leveled dozens of houses on Friday
Heartbreaking: Emma Franco, center, is consoled after she lost her mobile home in Pateros, Washington, on Friday. Nearly half the town was destroyed by the wildfire
A couple survey the burned out wreckage of what once was their home. Now, only the chimney remains. Entire blocked were leveled by the blaze
A losing battle: Despite the valiant efforts of firefighters, the blaze whipped out of control and remained zero percent contained on Friday.]The sheriff issued his highest evacuation notice Thursday for Pateros, a town along the Columbia River. Residents drove south to Chelan. A hospital in nearby Brewster was evacuated as a precaution, with the patients sent to Omak.
'The whole town was evacuated,' Rogers said in a telephone interview as he drove the eight-mile stretch between Brewster and Pateros. 'It was a chaotic mess but we got everybody on the highway.'
'There's nobody in Pateros' except a few 'stragglers' who stayed, he said, adding the fire was burning in the town, although the small business district was believed intact.
Rogers said perhaps 15 to 20 homes have burned in Pateros and another 20 homes in the Twisp-Winthrop area. He had no estimate of how many homes have burned in the entire county of about 40,000 people. The situation in Brewster, population about 2,400, was 'pretty good,' Rogers said. 'It looks like Brewster's OK.'
A law enforcement officer in the county for 30 years, and sheriff for 12, Rogers said this fire is the worst he's seen. All of his officers are working and help is coming from nearby Chelan and Douglas counties.
'Hold on,' he said as he drove, 'I've gotta go through a little bit of fire.'
He said the fire had jumped U.S. Highway 97 between Brewster and Pateros and was burning along the Columbia. Sections of several highways were closed in the county.
Early Friday, the Okanogan County Sheriff's dispatch office said the roughly 300 residents of the Chiliwist Valley, about 15 miles north of Pateros, evacuated late Thursday night.
Four wildfires converged into a single, massive blaze on Friday and immediately grew nearly ten times bigger - engulfing 260 square miles
Firefighters tried to suppress the spread of the blaze with air-drops of flame retardant - but to little avail
Nearly all 650 residents of the town were evacuated ahead of the fire. So far no casualties have been reported
With Lake Chelan, Washington, in the foreground, a large plume of smoke and steam rises from just south of Pateros Friday morning from the Carlton Complex Fire
Two major power lines, one feeding Pateros and one feeding Winthrop and Twisp, have burned, causing a widespread power outage in the county, said Scott Miller, the county's emergency manager.
The Carlton Complex of fires has burned across at least 28 square miles of the scenic Methow Valley. Fire spokesmen were not able to provide updated acreage Thursday night. There is zero containment on the complex, one of two major wildfires burning in central Washington.
'Our personnel have been so busy they're not able to get back to us quickly,' fire spokesman Tim Perciful said from an incident command post where the electricity was out due to the fire.
For Friday's fire fight, 'We're trying to get more state resources,' Perciful said.
About 100 miles to the south, the Chiwaukum Creek Fire chased people from nearly 900 homes as it burned near the Bavarian-themed village of Leavenworth.
That fire sent a light dusting of ash over Leavenworth, where the German-style motif provides a backdrop to Oktoberfest and a Christmas tree lighting festival.
The fire's smoke plume rose 25,000 feet into the air. The blaze closed 15 miles of U.S. Highway 2 in the area.
'There's a huge cloud of smoke above us,' Don Hurst, a retired firefighter who lives just outside of Leavenworth, said Thursday morning. 'The winds started to pick up a little. It's just like snowfall here with the ash coming down. It's fine ash. We're getting all this ash fall.'
The fire destroyed a church - along with nearly 100 houses
Church members gathered around the wreckage of their house of worship and mourned - then worked to clean it up
Avery Harrison, 5, shrouds herself in her blanket as she walks away from the rubble of her family's home, destroyed in a wildfire the night before
Chuck Bontrager, left, and Josh Allen look through debris from a home destroyed in a wildfire
Residents of 860 homes have been told they should leave immediately, fire officials said. Another 800 homes were less seriously threatened.
Authorities said Thursday that the Chiwaukum Creek Fire has grown to more than 10 square miles. It was first detected Tuesday.
'The weather and winds are not in our favor,' said fire spokeswoman Mary Bean. Temperatures have been in the triple digits with winds gusting as high as 30 mph.
She said the cause of the fire is under investigation.
About 1,000 firefighters were fighting blazes around the state that included the Mills Canyon Fire, the state's largest at 35 square miles.
Worsening wildfire activity has prompted the governor's offices in both Washington and Oregon to declare states of emergency, a move that allows state officials to call up the National Guard.
Elsewhere across the West:
OREGON: Two different lightning-sparked wildfires grew quickly in hot and dry conditions in central Oregon on Thursday, prompting evacuation alerts.
Authorities said the Bridge 99 fire in the Cascade Range 20 miles north of Sisters tripled in size and threatened rural homes along the Metolius River. A top-level evacuation advisory urged residents to leave their homes immediately.
In the Ochoco Mountains about 20 miles east of Prineville, the Bailey Butte Fire grew after getting into heavy timber in a wilderness area, prompting the Crook County Sheriff's office to advise residents of 27 homes to leave. The evacuation area included the Mount Bachelor Academy, which was shut down by the state in 2009 amid allegations it mistreated troubled teens. U.S. Highway 26 remained closed at the Ochoco Summit near Mitchell.
They were among 13 large fires burning across Oregon.
UTAH: A wildfire encroaching on homes in the Tooele County town of Stockton had burned about 200 acres. Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry said the fire burned part of a water tower but it's believed no homes have been destroyed. A 27-year-old Tooele man has been arrested on charges that he ignited the fire with matches. Police said the suspect, Timothy West, was a volunteer firefighter for the town several years ago, Curry told The Salt Lake Tribune.
IDAHO: In central Idaho, the lightning-caused Preacher Fire has scorched more than 50 square miles, burning quickly through grass and brush. More than 300 personnel have been called in to suppress a wildfire inside the Boise National Forest that tripled in size overnight and is steadily spreading. The lightning-caused Whiskey Complex Fire consumed 7 square miles of forest land as of Thursday.
As weather conditions begin to favor the struggle to tame wildfires that have burned through hundreds of square miles in Washington State, incredible drone footage that drives home the truly devastating impact of the blaze has been released.
Th aerial footage taken by Chelan HD Productions shows the communities devastated by the raging inferno across 370 scorched square miles of the Evergreen State.
As of Sunday, authorities estimated the number of homes destroyed in the relentless inferno to be 150 and the shocking drone footage puts the ruin into startling perspective.
Producers of the impressive footage encourage viewers to donate to those left without homes via the tip jar beneath their Vimeo video, here.
Devastating: Drone footage taken by Chelan HD Productions of the devastation left behind by wildfires in Washington State is as captivating as it is shocking
Forecasters say calmer winds and cooler temperatures are headed for the fire-scorched region, conditions that could help firefighters in their battle against wildfires that have charred hundreds of square miles of terrain.
Sunday's official estimate put the wildfire burning in north-central Washington at more than 370 square miles, compared with 260 square miles on Friday.
The forecast for Monday and Tuesday calls for lighter winds and temperatures, said Spokane-based National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Koch.
'Overall, it looks like the weather scenario is improving,' Koch said.
Then on Wednesday a 'vigorous' front is expected to cover Washington, bringing rain to much of the state. But it will also bring lighting, he added.
Shocking: The blaze had continued unabated for a week by Sunday, when authorities placed the number of homes destroyed at 150
Rapid blaze: Sunday's official estimate put the wildfire burning in north-central Washington at more than 370 square miles, compared with 260 square miles on Friday
Relief? Forecasters say calmer winds and cooler temperatures are headed for a fire-scorched region of Washington state, conditions that could help firefighters in their battle against wildfires that have charred hundreds of square miles of terrain
'The benefits of the system are still up in the air,' Koch said. 'We may get some rain where we need it, but we may also experience some lighting that could cause some new ignitions.'
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers estimates that 150 homes have been destroyed, but suspects that number could be higher. His deputies haven't been able to search parts of the county where homes are spread miles apart. No serious injuries have been reported, Rogers said.
There are nearly 1,400 firefighters battling the flames, assisted by more than 100 fire engines, helicopters dropping buckets of water and planes spreading flame retardant. On Sunday, Rogers was driving to the town of Twisp to survey the damage.
'It's the first time in four days I've seen blue sky,' he said. 'Every day, when you got up, it was nothing but smoke. All we've seen of the sun is a red ball.'
Although the weather is improving, the towns in the scenic Methow Valley remain without power and have limited landline and cellphone service. Okanogan County Public Utility District officials told KREM that fully restoring power to the area could take weeks.
Not a sure thing: 'The benefits of the system are still up in the air,' Koch said. 'We may get some rain where we need it, but we may also experience some lighting that could cause some new ignitions'
Widespread: Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, gusting winds and lightning. About 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane
Inferno: Early Saturday, authorities announced that they are bringing in two military air tankers from Wyoming to help fight wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere
Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday about 50 fires were burning in Washington, which has been wracked by hot, dry weather, gusting winds and lightning. About 2,000 firefighters were working in the eastern part of the state, with about a dozen helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Guard, along with a Washington State Patrol spotter plane.
Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state's Military Department, said 100 National Guard troops were on standby, and up to 1,000 more in Yakima could receive additional fire training. Active-duty military could be called in as well, Inslee said.
The Washington state Department of Natural Resources announced Saturday evening that firefighters from New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are coming to the state to help.
Early Saturday, authorities announced that they are bringing in two military air tankers from Wyoming to help fight wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said the tankers were activated to ensure that firefighters had adequate air tanker capability in the region.
Not-so-Evergreen State: Hundreds of square acres of scorched land now mar central Washington's picturesque landscape
Time to give: Producers of the video Chelan HD Productions urge viewers to donate to help victims of the fire by giving money to the tip jar on their Vimeo page
Not all is lost: In the wrenching can be made out the forms of residents mourning their lost homes, though no injuries had been reported as of Monday