Heat toughens wildfire battle

SEATTLE — Firefighters battling Washington’s largest wildfire have been able to keep the blaze from threatening more homes, but rising temperatures this week will make their job harder, officials said Monday.

Temperatures for central and eastern Washington are expected to be scorching this week, with some areas hitting triple digits Monday. It will be even hotter Tuesday. But amid the heat, there’s a bit of good news: wind isn’t a major factor in the forecast.

“If we continue to heat up and dry out, it’ll dry out more fuels, but we don’t have the winds that may spread them or cause a new fire,” said Ty Judd, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Spokane office.

Fueled by dry conditions and wind gusts, the Carlton Complex fire has torn through 390 square miles in north-central Washington, leaving 300 homes destroyed in the Pateros and Brewster area and throughout the Methow Valley. Officials said the fire is 66 percent contained as of Monday.

Incident spokesman Jim Schwarber said the fire perimeter was mostly stable from Winthrop to Carlton.

The rising temperatures have produced isolated smoke around the area, but none of it was attributed to a new fire or a blaze outside the perimeter. Crews continue to respond to concerns from area residents, putting out hot spots when they are called.

However, officials cautioned that the fire is not out yet and increased activity will be noticeable as the days get hotter.

Schwarber said nearby residents will see plumes of smoke “probably until snow flies this fall.”

In fires of this size, there are isolated spots that haven’t burned, he said. Those may catch fire as the ground continues to smolder. Those fires are not worrisome because they start within the fire’s perimeter, he said.

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