The Okanogan County Sheriff claims the weather is finally giving firefighters a break on the massive Carlton Complex fire.
The Okanogan County Sheriff said a retired Washington State Trooper, Rob Koczewski, died of an apparent heart attack while attempting to save his home. The 67-year-old and his wife were hauling water and digging lines on their property according to Sheriff Frank Rogers. Koczewski was well-known and respected throughout the community Rogers said. He also served as a Sergeant Major for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The sustained winds dropped to below 10 mph and temperatures cooled into the 70s Sunday, causing the fire to slow down its assault on Central Washington.
Rogers said the fire had moved away from populated areas and into timber.
The Carlton Complex fire grew 61,000 acres to 299,897 acres Sunday, but the calmer winds helped firefighters set lines, but the fire was still at zero percent containment.
The fire was slowly moving toward Winthrop and Twisp, but the towns aren't in immediate danger according to authorities. Twisp is under a Level 2 evacuation order which means people there have to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Saturday afternoon fire crews had built a line east of the highway between Winthrop and Twisp. They said it is holding very well. Crews also said they had held the fire south of Libby Creek and Benson Creek. The area of these two creeks is where fire crews are hoping to keep the fire so it doesn't move into Twisp.
No homes were lost on Saturday and firefighters were pleased that it hadn't grown significantly. No serious injuries have been reported.
On Sunday night emergency managment leaders estimated the number of homes lost to the Carlton Complex fire at 150-200. Rogers said these homes were lost in the areas of Pateros, Malott, Alta Lake, Chiliwist and Star Road.
Level 3 mandatory evacuations were still in place at Alta Lake and Antoine Creek near Pateros Sunday night. Authorities said Alta Lake lost an estimated 52 homes to the fire.
Firefighters are focusing on protecting homes until winds die down long enough to start establishing containment lines.
Sheriff Rogers said this is the worst mass emergency situation he has ever been a part of.
All phone and internet services are still down in Winthrop, Twisp, Pateros and Mazama due to the expanding fires in the region. Services are intact in Mallot, Omak, Okanogan and Oroville still have phone and internet services but bandwidth is limited. Use ten digit phone #s [ (509) plus the # ] to contact local fire stations and police in case of an emergency when calling from those areas. Authorities don't have an estimate for when this service will be fixed.