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Region responds to firestorm


Scott Hunter

Anglers try their hands for Banks Lake fish July 8 in front of Steamboat Rock under a sky already tinged with smoke from wildfires. Those skies grew much smokier over the last week as the worst fires in the nation burned more than 250,000 acres, in Okanogan County, drawing in local firefighters in a massive fight that is still underway.

When a storm system moved across the region July 14, lightning started multiple fires just as temperatures would reach into the 100s for days, feeding what would become the largest wildfire in state history.

Local firefighters from Grand Coulee, Electric City, Coulee Dam and Elmer City would answer calls for help as Brewster and Pateros evacuated and a hundred homes burned.

As of Tuesday, the largest complex of fires, the Carlton Complex, had consumed 250,000 acres of timber, an area four times the size of Seattle, and was considered only 16 percent contained.

Rising humidity and falling temperatures, and even a slight amount of rain, were hoped to help the 2,110 personnel on the fire who responded from across the nation, hoping to hold the fire line south of highway 20.

For local firefighters, responding to a good sized brush fire 14 miles west of Grand Coulee near the "Leahy Junction" of SR 174 and SR 17, the 4,300-acre R Road fire on Wednesday had been just a warmup.

Many local resources were added to the 134 engines, 12 dozers and 18 helicopters, including National Guard aircraft, fighting the fire along a 100-mile perimeter.

To help those affected:

• The Red Cross has set up three shelters and is operating mobile feeding sites. It will accept monetary donations at Or call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

• Donations of clothing and needed items are being collected at the Grand Coulee Volunteer Fire Station.

"There are people up there that don't have anything to wear," noted Brian Walters.

From the GCVFD Facebook page:

"We are working on putting together another run of donations for fire victims of Carlton Complex. If you have anything you can donate please let us know or drop off at the fire dept.,you can leave items next to side door (between Les Schwab and fire dept). Items needed are water, baby cloths, diapers, formula, adult cloths, etc. People lost everything they owned. Thank you for anything you can do."

Local volunteers have already delivered about four truckloads of items and will likely make another delivery on Friday or Saturday, Walters said. If someone has something they don't want to leave outside the station, they can call Walters at 631-0588 or message him on Facebook.

• Relief donations for fire victims can be made to North Cascade Bank. Information on giving to specific fire relief areas is available by calling Scott Anderson, (509) 682-4502, president of the bank.

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