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Increased humidity, lower temperatures and calmer winds were welcomed by crews in north-central Washington that are still fighting to keep a wildfire that had been burning for a week under control Monday. But the system moving in could cause also thunderstorms — and lightning could ignite more blazes in coming days, said Weather.com meteorologist Nick Wiltgen. The existing fire — which has scorched nearly 380 square miles near Okanogan County — was originally sparked by lightning July 14, investigators believe. Four separate blazes caused by the lightning merged to form the largest wildfire in the state's history on Saturday, officials said. The fire was just 2 percent contained Monday, officials said.
The Carlton Complex fire claimed its first victim on Sunday, said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers. Rob Koczewski had been fighting to save his home from the flames for days, and died of a heart attack during those efforts, Rogers said. An estimated 200 homes have been destroyed and several towns remained without power and water. Washington State Emergency Management spokesman Mark Clemens said weeks could pass before residents regained electricity in their homes. More than 1,600 firefighter are battling the flames, fire spokesman Andrew Sanbri said. The Washington National Guard is battling the flames from the air with Blackhawks, assisted by the Montana National Guard, which sent 17 troops on Monday.
Chelan HD Productions sent a drone into the air to survey the destruction the wildfire has caused:
- Firefighters Make Headway Against Destructive Washington Wildfire
- Record-Breaking Wildfires Bear Down on Washington Communities
— Elisha Fieldstadt