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Community pulls together, Northwest fire rages

The Carlton Complex Fire, which has burned nearly 100 homes in Washington's Methow Valley and displaced 40,000 residents, continues to burn out of control. Conditions in the region have been extremely hot and dry, and strong winds whipped flames into a scene reminiscent of Dante's Inferno.

Lightning strikes kindled some fires around the July 4 holiday. By Friday, July 18, the Carlton Complex Fire had mushroomed to 260 square miles from 28 square miles. The Methow Valley isCarltonComplexFireA satellite image of smoke plumes taken on July 18 shows multiple wildfires in the state of Washington. These fires include the Carlton Complex and the Chiwaukum Creek Fire, part of the Mills Canyon Complex. (Photo courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) situated about 180 miles east of Seattle and is a popular destination for hiking and fishing.

The towns of Pateros and Brewster, WA, were evacuated. The fire jumped U.S. Highway 97 in Brewster and Pateros and has been burning along the Columbia River. Other highways in the area have been closed.

Mac Riggin, director of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing in Chelan, WA, told The Produce News July 21, "The whole community is pulling together and has been very supportive. Thank goodness, there's been no loss of life."

The fire burned two major power lines in Okanogan County, resulting in a widespread power outage. Riggin said, "Crews will get the power on as soon as possible."

Chelan Fresh was in the middle of cherry production when the fire erupted. "We've picked and packed a lot of cherries through all this," he told The Produce News. Cherry orchards are still intact, with none having burned.

He credited employees, some of whom have lost their homes, for their dedication and resilience in the face of disaster. "To be able to function under these circumstances is [incredible]," he stated.

The fire will not affect the company's upcoming apple and pear production.

The Washington State Horticultural Association, working in collaboration with employers in the tree fruit industry, has set a mechanism enabling people to make financial donations to benefit those who lost their homes and suffered loss attributed to the fire. Donations made be made to: Community Foundation of North Central Washington Brewster/Pateros Tree Fruit Fire Victims Fund, 9 S. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801.
 
Further information can be obtained at www.cfncw.org or by contacting Beth Stipe at 509/663-7716; or email beth@cfncw.org.

Donation checks should be marked “Brewster/Pateros Tree Fruit Fire Victims” on the memo line.