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Rain Delays Attempts To Restore Electricity In Fire-Stricken Washington Area

McClatchy Tribune News Service National News

Rain Delays Attempts To Restore Electricity In Fire-Stricken Washington Area

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By Joseph O’Sullivan, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Lightning strikes that might have fueled the Carlton complex wildfire never materialized Wednesday and Thursday, allowing emergency responders a moment to sigh in relief.

But scattered rain and other difficult conditions delayed efforts to restore electricity to about 7,000 Okanogan County consumers who have been without power from the fire, according to Dan Boettger, director of regulatory and environmental affairs for the Okanogan County Public Utility District.

Work by utility crews also was hampered by a handful of new power outages and fire flare-ups, Boettger said.

“The weather’s been our biggest obstacle over the past 24 hours,” he said.

Firefighters spent Wednesday and Thursday trying to keep the fire south of Highway 20, which runs from Okanogan west to Twisp and Winthrop, according to the federal fire-tracking website Inciweb.nwcg.gov.

The fire was 52 percent contained, according to the web site, up from 2 percent Monday. The largest wildfire in recorded state history, the Carlton complex fire has burned more than 250,000 acres, or about 391 square miles.

The thunderstorms forecast to bring lightning and flash flooding to the area Wednesday never inflicted the damage many feared. Forecasters had predicted lightning could spur the fire’s spread and rain could cause ground made bare by the flames to turn into mudslides.

But only six lightning strikes occurred within the fire’s boundaries on Thursday, according to Steve Bodnar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. About 100 lightning strikes total happened near the fire, he said.

While the rain skirted most of the wildfire, Bodnar said it did contribute to a small mudslide near Gold Creek. It was quickly cleared up, he said.

The bulk of people and businesses without electricity are clustered in and around the towns of Pateros, Twisp, and Winthrop in Okanogan County, according to Boettger.

“We’re still predicting the town of Twisp and the town of Pateros to be back on this weekend,” Boettger said. Once electricity is restored in Twisp, that power could be extended to Winthrop.

Megan Snow, communications director for the Red Cross, said emergency responders have been swamped by the amount of donations given to help the recovery efforts.

While she called the donations generous, Snow advised people to hold off on giving more for now.

“There might be other needs that crop up along the way,” she said.

The Red Cross has case workers around the region hit by the fires, according to Snow.

The Red Cross is still running three emergency centers in the region, at Brewster High School, Chelan High School, and The Barn in Winthrop.

Photo via WikiCommons

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