Growing wildfire empties Washington town

Western Wildfires

Smoke and flames rise from the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, Wash., Thursday, July 17, 2014, in this aerial photo. The blaze closed a section of U.S. Highway 2, and resulted in the evacuation of nearly 900 homes.         (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A small north-central Washington town and a nearby hospital have been evacuated ahead of a wind-whipped wildfire that has already burned at least 35 homes, authorities said.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said late Thursday he’s heard of no injuries from the Carlton Complex of wildfires.

The sheriff issued his highest evacuation notice Thursday for Pateros, a town of about 650 people along the Columbia River. Residents drove south to Chelan. A hospital in nearby Brewster was evacuated as a precaution, with the patients sent to Omak.

“The whole town was evacuated,” Rogers said in a telephone interview as he drove the eight-mile stretch between Brewster and Pateros. “It was a chaotic mess but we got everybody on the highway.”

“There’s nobody in Pateros” except a few “stragglers” who stayed, he said, adding the fire was burning in the town, although the small business district was believed intact.

Rogers said perhaps 15-20 homes have burned in Pateros and another 20 homes in the Twisp-Winthrop area. He had no estimate of how many homes have burned in the entire county of about 40,000 people.

The situation in Brewster, population about 2,400, was “pretty good,” Rogers said. “It looks like Brewster’s OK.”

A law enforcement officer in the county for 30 years, and sheriff for 12, Rogers said this fire is the worst he’s seen. All of his officers are working and help is coming from nearby Chelan and Douglas counties.

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