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September 19, 2014

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Sheriff: 300 homes burned in Washington wildfire

TWISP, Wash. — About 300 homes — twice as many as previously estimated — have burned in a massive wildfire in north-central Washington, a county sheriff said Friday.

Officials previously placed the number at 150, but Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he knew that figure would rise because crews hadn't been able to reach some of the burned areas.

The updated estimate came after Rogers and his deputies drove 750 miles of roadway through the blackened area, surveying the devastation.

"It's every road. Every road lost something," Rogers said. "It looks like a moonscape; there's nothing left. There's hundreds of dead livestock. It's horrifying."

At nearly 400 square miles, the Carlton Complex of fires is the largest recorded in state history, eclipsing the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which killed 38 people in southwest Washington. The Carlton Complex has been blamed for the death of a man who appeared to suffer a heart attack while trying to protect his property.

Fire crews have reported good progress in the last few days, with cooler weather and rain helping in getting the fire a little more than half contained.

The fire has been burning in the scenic Methow Valley, a popular area for hiking and fishing about 180 miles northeast of Seattle. The fire destroyed 30 homes in the town of Pateros, one of the worst-hit areas.

Power was finally restored to parts of the valley, including Twisp and Winthrop, on Friday, eight days after the fire burned two key utility lines. But many people in outlying areas remained without electricity, Rogers said.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday extended a burn ban for dry eastern Washington for one more week. The ban had been set to end Friday. He also said that the state would waive permit requirements for anyone in the affected areas who wants to use extra-large generators because they remain without power.

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