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Howling winds push massive Washington fire

First Published      Last Updated Jul 19 2014 11:16 am

Winthrop, Wash. • Howling winds pushed a massive wildfire in north-central Washington in new directions Saturday.

Officials said there are no reports of injuries and only one more home was destroyed overnight by the lightning-caused wildfire.

The wildfire that has blackened more than 260 square miles in the scenic Methow Valley northeast of Seattle has calmed down near Pateros, where it destroyed about 100 homes Thursday and Friday, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.

"It's just starting to run out of places to burn," he said.

The fire has picked up on its north side closer to Winthrop, but winds have been erratic and were blowing the very active fire in different directions.

"The wind is just howling up there," Rogers said.

The active fire was burning in an area that is more sparsely populated, with homes scattered throughout the woods and along the highway.

"There's people who live all around up there," he said.

In Peteros, home to 650 people, the fire left behind solitary brick chimneys and burned-out automobiles.

Residents strolled through the smoldering rubble of their neighborhoods on Friday evening, some wearing surgical masks to protect their lungs from the smoke and ash lingering in the air of the riverside community they call "Paterodise."

"Paterodise is hurting right now," said Stephanie Brown, as she surveyed what was left of a friend's home.

Most residents evacuated in advance of the flames, and some returned Friday to see what, if anything, was left.

Residents of the small town of Malott, north of Pateros, were told to leave their homes Friday as the fire advanced, as were some living in outlying areas of nearby Brewster.

Malott is home to about 500 people, while the population of Brewster is about 2,400. Rogers said one home had burned in Malott on Friday evening.

In Pateros, a wall of fire wiped out a block of homes on Dawson Street. David Brownlee, 75, said he drove away Thursday evening just as the fire reached the front of his home, which erupted like a box of matches.

"It was just a funnel of fire," Brownlee said. "All you could do was watch her go."

Next door, the Pateros Community Church appeared largely undamaged.

The pavement of U.S. Highway 97 stopped the advance of some of the flames, protecting parts of the town. The mayor, Libby Harrison, lost her own home, and said she expected most people to rebuild.

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