Washington wildfire is now largest in state history

University of Alaska, Fairbanks, firefighting students Casey Lasota, left, and Harold Stein work to cool hotspots left from a wildfire Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in Chelan, Wash. Firefighters across the West saw little relief over the weekend as wildfires raged in the drought-stricken region, but for those in Washington, other states will soon provide additional resources. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

OKANOGAN, Wash. (AP) — The massive fire burning in north-central Washington is now the largest in state history.

The Okanogan Complex of wildfires has surpassed last year’s Carlton Complex blazes, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said Monday morning.

The Okanogan Complex was measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, slightly more than the Carlton fires, which also burned in Okanogan County.

The Okanogan Complex grew by more than 26 square miles Sunday and is expected to grow even more in coming days. Isaacson did not have a containment estimate, but there is very little containment on the wildfire.

Isaacson called the record unfortunate and said the fire could burn until rain and snow season arrives.

“It’s only Aug. 24th,” he said. “In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November.”

Officials are still trying to determine how many homes and other structures have been burned by the Okanogan Complex.

About 1,250 people are battling the wildfire, Isaacson said. Last week, three firefighters were killed and four injured when they were overtaken while trying to escape the flame.

As crews made inroads against massive fires burning in north-central Washington some people began to assess just how damaging the huge blazes have been.

Steve Surgeon, a mechanic and scrap-metal seller, lost everything he owns except for his home on the outskirts of Okanogan. He stayed in place as the fire raced over a ridge and barreled down toward his house, flames lapping just feet from his back porch.

“I’m alive,” he said with a sigh Sunday. “I shouldn’t be, but I am — and that’s what matters.”

Sixteen large wildfires are burning across central and eastern Washington, covering more than 920 square miles. More than 200 homes have been destroyed, and more than 12,000 homes and thousands of other structures remain threatened.

The blazes were among several large fires burning across the West, taxing firefighting resources and prompting officials to seek help from other states and even abroad. Officials said Australia and New Zealand are sending firefighters to help battle the western blazes.

 

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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