Much of Washington is ablaze today, and the Carlton Complex Fire has now become the state’s largest wildfire on record.
News reports said so, but I had to confirm on my own. I knew from my research for PEMCO’s current “Don’t Get Burned!” wildfire campaign that the biggest Washington fire ever was the 1902 Yacolt Burn northeast of Vancouver, which destroyed a whopping 239,000 acres and took 38 lives. Could the Carlton Fire truly be bigger?
Yes. As of yesterday (July 21), it had engulfed 243,000 acres and continued to spread.
Here’s a little more perspective. Two years ago, the infamous Taylor Bridge Fire near Cle Elum burned 23,000 acres and destroyed 61 homes. The Carlton Fire has torched 153 homes.
1994 was a bad year for Washington fires. The Hatchery Creek Fire burned 19 homes near Leavenworth, jumped U.S. Highway 97, and charred 43,000 acres. The Tyee Creek Fire north of Wenatchee was even worse, scorching 135,000 acres for 33 days and destroying 35 homes.
Oregonians recall the 2002 Biscuit Fire, which burned four homes and 499,000 acres in Siskiyou National Forest.
Damp weather and light winds could go a long way toward helping the 1,700 Carlton firefighters snuff out their blaze before it reaches Biscuit proportions.
Sadly, five major wildfires currently burning in Washington make Fire Chief Russ Hobbs sound prophetic. When his Kittitas County Fire District 7 teamed with PEMCO in May for a demonstration burn, Hobbs noted conditions already were dry and warm.
“We know this year the potential for another Taylor Bridge fire is a given,” he told Q13 Fox News. “Everything’s building up for that one big fire. Throughout the eastern side of the Cascade Range, this is what our summer’s going to look like.”
Already a rough summer, our fire season still has at least another two months to go.