Preparations continue as wildfires near Conconully

CONCONULLY, Wash. - The small central Washington town of Conconully is using its history to prepare for the Carlton Complex of fires should conditions drastically change this weekend. Temperatures are expected to warm back up, officials said. That will likely dry out grass and brush across the region.

Several dozen people attended a public meeting in Conconully, a retirement community in Okanogan County of about 200 people, on Friday night to learn about the fire's progress and the plan of attack for firefighters over the coming days.

Marilyn Church attended the meeting. Some of her neighbors refer to her as the town's historian. She can tell you just about anything you want to know about its history.

"It has survived flood and fire and depression and silver mines going bad and a couple wars," Church said.

One fire nearly destroyed the entire town in 1892, Church said. Except for one building. Two years later, it was hit by a devastating flood.

"The business district in both cases was wiped out," Church said. "In the flood, (the building) relocated about 2 blocks away from where it was originally."

Knowing what the town's been through, several dozen people packed into the town's community hall Friday to learn about the fire that's grown in recent days to the largest in state history. Residents have seen smoke and plenty of ash, they said.

"We were visiting some neighbors, and it landed all over us. And by Thursday morning, our place was pretty well covered," Janie Carpenter, who's lived in Conconully for 22 years.

Fire officials say the fire is still about 15-20 air miles away from Conconully. The town thrives on tourism, Church said.

Residents will likely see a lot more smoke this weekend when crews attack the north end of the fire with a process called burnouts.

"What we're trying to do is remove fuels from in front of the fire between the main fire and the place where we're going to try to stop it," said Fire Information Officer Pete Buist.

"We're not as concerned because we went through the Tripod Fire, and we went through Clarks Fire and Isabelle Creek before that. You get to a point where you trust these management teams," said Church.

Church said the town is ready should conditions charnge drastically as the temperatures warm up.

The town has always stuck together, she said. They'll do the same whenever disaster strikes again.

"It's a very easy place to live and anything goes wrong there's 50 people if you snap your fingers," Church said.