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Northwoods Residents Help at Washington Blaze

Crews from northern Wisconsin are helping battle the largest wildfire in Washington state’s history.

More than 3000 people have been called in from around the country to combat the Carlton Complex, ablaze that started in mid-July. 

Rhinelander resident Suzanne Flory from the U.S. Forest Service is wrapping up a two-week stint at the fire site, serving as a liaison and helping with communication between incident commanders and local government. 

Flory says containing the fire has been difficult in temperatures over a hundred degrees, with low humidity and more lightning in the forecast.

“The South zone and the east zone of the fire are doing very well. There’s still some tricky area on the north zone. The terrain in some of the areas is just not safe to put crews in. So they’re using a lot of helicopters to dump water.”

The fire has burned over 250-thousand acres, and consumed about 300 homes.  With ranching common in the area, Flory says about 250 cattle and other livestock have also perished in the blaze. 

“The fire moved so fast that it’s actually really amazing no people had lives lost. It’s actually pretty miraculous – but a lot of the cows, they just didn’t have time to get them out.

The fire started on a windy night more than two weeks ago, with several lightning strikes in close proximity.  It spread too fast for crews to contain.

Flory says officials and crews are concerned about what’s still to come, after the Carlton blaze is fully contained.  Washington’s fire season doesn’t typically start until the end of July. 

“They’ve already had quite a fire season. They’ve had a lot of smaller scale fires, and will continue to do so with these conditions. So yeah that’s talked about almost daily in our morning briefings. Crews will leave here, rest for two days and then most likely be back on the fire line somewhere.”

Flory says she hopes to head home to Rhinelander on Monday.  

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