Burned area adjacent to the San Poil River on the Colville Reservation.

Weekend Rain Helps Firefighters Battling Colville Reservation Flames; Carlton Fire Contained


The Devil’s Elbow Complex Fire on the Colville Reservation in Washington State was at 26,428 acres on August 18, but firefighters were encouraged by a Sunday rainstorm that dropped almost a half inch of rain onto the northern part of the blaze.

The fire, a complex of four sparked by lightning earlier this month, was 60 percent contained as of August 18, according to InciWeb, the incident reporting service online. Evacuation orders were being evaluated as firefighting officials declared the blaze “in a good place,” as InciWeb described it.

RELATED: Colville Reservation Fire of Nearly 20,000 Acres Prompts Evacuations

Firefighting personnel expected to have the blaze fully contained by Thursday August 21.

Progress was made elsewhere in Washington as well, with containment of the Carlton Complex of fires, the state’s largest ever, finally in sight after burning for more than a month.

“The Carlton Fire is in patrol and mop up,” InciWeb reported on August 18. “The 256,108-acre Carlton Fire will continue to smoke and flare in the interior.”

At least 300 homes were burned and critical infrastructure was destroyed, but no lives were lost, InciWeb said. The fire scorched 400 square miles. 

Three people have been arrested and charged with arson for trying to set their own backburn fires and instead damaging property, endangering firefighters and exacerbating the Carlton Complex Fire. Police arrested Keith Strickland, 60, and Larry Smith, 63, for “lighting a fire that he set in hopes of slowing a wildfire’s growth by burning off brush in its path,” The Spokesman-Review reported on August 14. Instead they lost control of it, and it helped spread the fire that torched a large part of Methow Valley. In a separate incident police arrested Radley Hastings, 62, who set a fire that “went the wrong way,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told The Spokesman-Review, nearly trapping firefighters in a canyon.

“The fire crews called law enforcement after escaping the flames,” The Spokesman-Review reported.

Intent didn’t matter, given their lack of expertise and, in the case of Smith and Stickland, the direct disobeyment of safety orders even as firefighting crews watched.

“Here these guys are, lighting fire where there’s no fire,” Rogers told the newspaper. “If you’re lighting a fire that endangers firefighters in the area, that’s arson.”

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