New Methow Valley fire threatens homes

TWISP — A new wildfire in north-central Washington forced the evacuation of about 200 homes Friday and closed part of state Highway 20 as it burned near a command post set up for firefighters who continue battling the state’s largest fire.

Officials ordered the evacuations as the new fire burned intensely in high afternoon winds. The Sun Mountain Lodge, a luxury resort near Winthrop, was also evacuated as a precaution.

Janet Pearce, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said some structures had burned. It wasn’t known if they were homes or outbuildings.

The fire started around 2:30 p.m. west of Highway 20, about halfway between Twisp and Winthrop, Pearce said. Officials estimated it to be 200 to 300 acres, and Pearce said it spread quickly in high winds.

The fire burned close to a command post at Liberty Bell High School, where firefighters working on the Carlton Complex have been camping in tents. Crews from the Carlton Complex responded.

“We were a little nervous, but the fire’s gone around us so now we’re fine,” Alan Hoffmeister, a spokesman for the Carlton Complex, told The Associated Press. “We sent over quite an air force of helicopters and air tankers to drop retardant. They really pounded it.”

Pearrygin Lake State Park was ordered evacuated and will remain closed at least through the weekend. Highway 20 was open to local residents only between Winthrop and Twisp.

The Carlton Complex has burned 395 square miles and destroyed about 300 homes.

Fire officials said 20 mph winds with thunderstorms moved through the area Friday afternoon, increasing fire activity in some parts of the Carlton Complex, especially along the northern edge of the fire, north of Winthrop.

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