Cost of fighting state’s wildfires: $50M

SEATTLE — The cost of fighting this season’s wildfires in Washington, including the largest one in the state’s history, has crossed the $50 million mark.

Bolstered by the nearly 400-square-mile wildfire in north-central Washington, this year’s wildfire season has been widespread, with dozens of fires burning at the same time.

So far, state estimates put the cost of fire suppression at just over $50 million. Nearly half of that cost comes from the Carlton complex fire in north-central Washington with a tally of $23.3 million. The next biggest cost is the Chiwaukum fire in central Washington.

Those figures don’t include loss of property and damage to infrastructure. The Carlton fire has burned about 300 homes and heavily damaged the power grid in the scenic Methow Valley.

At nearly 400 square miles, the lightning-caused Carlton Complex has eclipsed the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which killed 38 people and consumed about 373 square miles, or 238,920 acres, 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.

The Carlton fire continues to burn in rising temperatures, but no major flare-ups have been reported.

“We’re seeing more and more (plumes of) smokes popped up but nothing to get terribly concerned about yet,” incident spokesman Alan Hoffmeister said.

A planned burnout operation near Winthrop to clear unburned grasses, bushes and small trees was scrapped on Saturday because the weather was not ideal, Hoffmeister said.

“They’ll have to do it eventually,” Hoffmeister said. “When that is, I really don’t know.”

Burnout operations require no wind and some moisture in the air, Hoffmeister said. Meanwhile, temperatures continue to climb in north-central Washington, and they could reach triple digits next week.

In Oregon, the state’s large wildfires seem to be contained, although high temperatures were also a concern there.

The nation’s largest wildfire — the 618-square-mile Buzzard Complex in eastern Oregon, 45 miles northeast of Burns — remained at 95 percent contained Sunday. Incident reports from the fire say containment lines continue hold as crews monitor increased fire activity.

Containment of the Ochoco complex jumped from 69 to nearly 80 percent Sunday. The complex consists of four wildfires burning 10,000 acres east of Prinville. The Bridge 99 complex fire north of Sisters is 74 percent contained.

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